Chinese medicine theory has long disagreed with the notion of icing injuries.
According to Chinese medicine, pain is thought to be caused by “blood stagnation” which blocks the flow of qi. The best way to stop pain and improve healing is to get qi moving. This can be achieved by stimulating blood circulation through the injured area with gentle movement, and by keeping it warm. Cold compresses only make blood circulation more sluggish, which will worsen pain in the long run.
Science now appears to have caught up with Chinese medicine. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research notes: “topical cooling (icing) seems not to improve but, rather, delay recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage”.
If you want to use ice to stop swelling of an injury, it is best alternated with soaking in warm water. The ice reduces swelling, while the warm water stimulates blood circulation, drawing stagnant blood out of the area and replacing it with fresh blood flow so it can heal.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.