Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Study Spotlight: Is Ice Right? Does Cryotherapy Improve Outcome for Acute Soft Tissue Injury?

By: Joel Luedke

What They Did:
These researchers did a review of the literature to see if there was any evidence to support the use of ice and if that resulted in an improved clinical outcome following an injury  The search entailed  looks at all trials using humans and animals pertaining to soft tissue trauma, ice or cryotherapy.  The clinically relevant outcomes they sought out were 1) a reduction in pain; 2) a reduction in swelling or edema 3) improved function or 4) return to participation in normal activity.

What They Found:
Only six relevant trials were found to be reviewed.  Overall they found that none were overly randomized or blinded (hard to do when something is cold like ice).  Overall they found that there was some support that moderate cooling could help in the control of edema.  They did find that excessive or prolonged cooling might actually be damaging and can hasten return to participation.

What It All Means:
The authors of the article summed it all up with this: "There is insufficient evident to suggest that cryotherapy improves clinical outcome in the management of soft tissue injuries."

First note: This review was done in 2007 and therefore can't account for any research that has been released since then so that is about 10 years of potential research that isn't accounted for.  (We will make sure to see if anything else is coming out and feature it soon).  I think it is telling though that more research needs to be done as only 6 trials were able to be used in this review.

Now on to more interpretation.  We aren't big fans of ice here and we think this review helps support that.  Cold can be damaging (think frostbite) and when you're cold all processes slow down. I can't imagine that our body wouldn't react the same way on a tissue and cellular level.  There are many ways to address injury and the one I personal most subscribe to is the need for muscle activation.  Swelling and edema need to removed and the clean up crew needs to come in and for the swelling to leave it needs to enter the lymphatic system.  This system is passive and the only way to get things to move is mechanically or through muscle activation.  The more we can contract muscle and move without causing pain (and hence more damage) the faster we can aid the process of repair. 

If ice is what you believe in and trust I can't argue with you but at least consider what another (potentially more effective) way to deal with injury could offer.

Related Articles/Videos
CP: Gary Reinl-The Anti-Ice Guy
TAT: We've Got to Stop Icing...A Year Later

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