Sometimes things we have always taken for granted as true need to be reconsidered. I just read an interesting article about the use of ice on acute injuries, weighing the exact physiological effects on the healing process.
New studies show that subjects who iced their injury had a slower recovery than those who did not. More studies are needed to quantify and refine timing, types of injuries, and so on, but it does make you want to look at the reasons why this might be so.
I have always advised using alternating heat and ice because in doing so you stimulate circulation, which is a key component of healing. The lymph circulation carries away damaged tissue, and the blood circulation brings in oxygen, nutrients, and healing chemicals. A short period of ice at the initial injury has the benefit of calming the initial pain. But overdoing ice depresses the healing process.
A little swelling is a good thing because it guards against movement that would cause further injury. Excessive swelling can be avoided by short periods of elevating the affected limb, just long enough to ease excessive pain. And don’t do what I did once, going out and about on crutches the day after breaking my ankle. Ouch! Wanting to use my ticket to the Women’s US Open was not a good trade off for all the pain and swelling the next day.
In conclusion, it seems that the best path is to limit use of ice as much as possible. Allow the body to go through its natural healing process. To read the full article from Massage Today by renowned therapist and author Whitney Lowe: Is it Time to Reconsider Cryotherapy?