Do you really think your body’s natural healing response is an error?
We have been so ingrained with the old RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) approach to injury and that we no longer question the outdated approach. Let us explain why.
When we get injured, our body has a 3 phase response: 1. Inflammation to the area 2. Repair with new nutrients via blood flow to the area 3. Remodeling of injured tissue and waste removal from the injured site.
If you prevent or delay phase 1 you will delay the healing restoration of phases 2-3! Inflammation is helpful and important. Swelling and bruising is our body's own way of healing. As the inflammation increases in the body, there are 3 things that are happening:
1. Swelling increases the proprioception throughout the injured area to help boost awareness so we can restrict painful movements and additional damage. 2. The lymphatic system will up-regulate to ensure that the lymphatic waste can be flushed out from the injured area. 3. Inflammation stabilizes the joint of the injured area, it keeps the joint supported so that we don't hurt it further!
The problem isn't inflammation itself, the problem is when inflammation is delayed or lingers. Lingering inflammation (think puffy, sore skin) that takes longer than it should to clear, is often the result of a lymphatic system that isn't working efficiently. Waste can only be cleared through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a one way system with no pump, it relies on movement to push waste through.
Ice restricts the blood vessels and slows down circulation. Rest often accompanies Ice, which means muscle movement isn't happening either, leaving lymphatic waste stuck at the injured site unable to clear. In addition icing down regulates or reduces the connection signal between the muscle and the nerve, meaning healing is further delayed.
For years we have been taught the following acronym for treating injuries: R.I.C.E
Rest: The problem with resting is that we are not pushing waste out of the injured tissue. It’s important to note that we are not talking about big movements, but rather subtle movements to help the inflammation be pumped through the lymphatic system. We have seen astounding reductions in inflammation (swollen ankles shrinking before our eyes!) by encouraging clients to perform small movements in conjunction with vibration therapy. When movement the injured part is not possible, enhancing waste reduction up the chain or in surrounding tissues alleviates pain and inflammation at the site of injury.
Ice: if you want it to not hurt, then ice will work. When you ice, it causes a back flow of the lymphatic fluid, which creates more congestion. Ice will numb the area by limiting the bodies communication network! This can be useful if you are injured HAVE to move (say for example you are an elite sportsman.) But do you really want to be playing on an injured body part anyway?
Compression: compressing the area will stop the movement and hence stop the contraction of the muscles which is required for the lymphatic system to pump the waste through! If we don’t move, swelling and congestion remains. A better approach would be short term compression massage or bracing techniques, followed by release to create a pressure difference and jump start waste removal.
Elevation: Elevation simply makes it hard for the lymphatic system to pump. It’s like pumping uphill, it’s harder!
This quote says it all;
“There can be inflammation without healing but there can not be healing without inflammation” - Gary Reinl
So what should you do when you get injured?
Drink water and perform subtle controlled movement to help flush waste products through muscle contraction.
Manual therapy to work the lymphatic system
Vibration therapy that will help pump waste out of the area
Avoid foods that create inflammation like processed foods, industrial seed oils, sugar!
Eat foods that reduce inflammations - Just eat real food!
We haven't iced an injury in years since learning the truth about icing. When our clients get injured, we encourage them to do the above steps, and book in for a powerplate or hands on session to speed up healing. As we mentioned above, we have seen dramatic changes in just one session as we accelerate the removal of lymphatics from the injured site. Inflammation clearing with Vibration therapy is particularly useful because the client need not move (good when pain is high) but can get passive movement as a result of vibration.
Trust your bodies natural healing response and welcome inflammation rather than blocking it with icing and anti inflammatory drugs. Next time you get injured, try the above strategies to help you recover faster!