If you automatically put ice on an ankle sprain or other soft tissue injuries because you think ice helps heal the injury, you probably do this because your mother or grandmother told you ice was the best way to relieve pain and swelling.
Ice does diminish inflammation and swelling by constricting blood vessels and reducing the flow of blood to injured tissues. However, this effect is only temporary. Once you remove ice, soft tissue warms up, blood flow increases and inflammation quickly returns. In addition, new research regarding the implication of inflammation in the body's natural healing processes indicates inflammation is necessary for promoting and expediting healing of sprains and other soft tissue injuries.
Ice May Delay Healing of Sprains
Inflammation dilates blood vessels to allow more blood to flow into damaged tissues. This blood also brings extra proteins, white blood cells and other chemicals essential for initiating the healing process. Inflammation chemicals attract cells to injured areas while also "waking up" dormant cells important for supporting the healing of sprained and strained soft tissues. In other words, when you don't allow inflammation to proceed normally by putting ice on sprains, you are preventing your body from using its resources to naturally heal and repair the sprain.
Studies Examining the Anti-therapeutic Effects of Putting Ice on Sprains
A 2009 meta-analysis evaluated numerous studies on the effect of putting ice on soft tissue injuries and found there was "insufficient evidence" to indicate that ice (cryotherapy) enhances the outcome of soft tissue injuries. Another study reviewed multiple research results regarding the use of ice on sprained ankles and noted this practice was based on "anecdotal evidence" and that evidence supported the use of ice on tissue injuries is extremely limited.
Although ice does provide some pain relief immediately after spraining an ankle, "icing" will have a detrimental effect on repairing damaged tissues if repeated unnecessarily. Using ice to diminish symptoms of inflammation interferes with your immune system's ability to send cells and chemicals essential for restoring tissue health.
Chiropractic Treatment for Sprains
The best type of holistic chiropractic treatment for soft tissue pain and strains is Active Release Therapy (ART), a patented massage technique treating nerve, ligament, tendon and muscle injuries. Active Release Therapy involves your chiropractor taking soft tissues through a full range of motions while gentle tension is maintained. ART helps shortened, inflamed tissue return to a normal length more efficiently and rapidly than stretching tissues. ART further relaxes tight, spastic soft tissues and promotes disintegration of adhesions and scar tissue. In addition to providing symptomatic relief of painful strains and sprains, ART also addresses physiological changes within injured tissues to strengthen them and reduce the risk of recurring injuries to the same area.
ART promotes natural healing of ankle sprains as well as pain due to shoulder, wrist, back and knee injuries. ART is also recommended for relieving symptoms of plantar fasciitis, whiplash, sciatica and tennis elbow.
Don't Reach for Ice When You Sprain Your Ankle--Call Geaux Chiro Instead!
Icing is not the first choice of treatment anymore for sprains. Ice offers only temporary relief of pain but does nothing to promote proper healing of damaged soft tissues. Schedule an appointment with Geaux Chiro today for evidence-based treatment of sprains, strains and other musculoskeletal injuries.