The Best Alternatives to Icing an Injury
While ice can be useful in reducing pain and inflammation immediately following an injury, it is not recommended as an ongoing treatment according to Chinese Medicine. Cold, and ice in particular, is constricting which prevents circulation, and in the long run slows down recovery. Decreased circulation to the tissues affects long term healing as fluid and blood accumulate and can add to swelling and potentially chronic pain and arthritic conditions.
Check out this article by Dr. Mirkin (founder of RICE theory) and read about how he changed his line of thinking including ice as part of the RICE protocol.
There are alternative ways to promote healing. Here are a few ways to treat pain and injury:
Topicals: Instead of ice, topical formulas use herbs that are considered cooling and can help with injuries to muscles and bones. External topicals are rooted in treating martial arts injuries and are available as patches, roll-ons, and oils. Some popular choices are Zheng Gu Shui, Po Sum On, and Kwan Loong.
Epsom salt bath- Once dissolved in to hot water, Epsom salt releases magnesium which can help with post work out recovery, muscle and nerve pain, muscle cramps, and inflammation.
Heat: Use after the initial acute phase of an injury, once swelling has subsided. Heat can help bring blood flow to the injured area, relieve soreness, and increase flexibility.
There are several Chinese medicine herbal trauma formulas. These formulas are useful for reducing pain, swelling, bruising, and inflammation. Use one that is most appropriate for your stage of injury.
Stage 1: Acute injury, up to a week. Symptoms of swelling, bruising, inflammation, pain.
Stage 2: This stage happens the few weeks after an injury with reduced pain and swelling. Increased stiffness and soreness.
Stage 3: Starting 3 to 4 weeks after and injury with signs of limited range of motion and possibly intermittent pain and swelling.
There are many options of appropriate herbal choices. Here are a few examples:
Great Mender- invigorates blood flow, used for trauma, bruising, fractures, swelling
Qi Ye Lian- Analgesic for acute or chronic muscle and joint pain caused by injury.
Drive Out Stasis From a Painful Body (Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang)- A classic formula for muscle pain, injury, surgery recovery, joint pain and stiffness.
Vitamin C- helps repair tissue, promote healing, keeps tendons and ligaments strong.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids- reduces inflammation
Calcium and magnesium- supports bone and muscle health
The sooner the better!
Treatments can be done at the onset of an injury or for lingering pain. Acupuncture supports your body's natural healing ability and works to:
Release natural pain killers
Improve circulation, bringing supply of blood and lymph to the affected area and helping remove cellular debris
Reduce swelling and increase range of motion
Speed up healing time