Ice Packs of Doubt and Uncertainty
I wrenched my knee somewhat badly performing in an aerial show, and I have been struggling to figure out, as a skeptic with google fu, whether or not to ice it. My massage therapist insists that icing injuries is the thing to do, but then he also recommends chiropracty and other dubious medical things. I’ve also, like most people, always heard that for injuries, rest, ice, compression, elevation. On the other hand, this appears to be one of those things people just do because we’ve all heard we should, and there are some studies suggesting that ice is bad for things. Sure, there is that, but there is also a paper noting that while some animal trials have shown that cooling is beneficial for injuries there are “no clinical studies of its[ice’s] effectiveness.” The abstract of that paper (which is all I actually read) also notes that “clinical questions arise when we consider the heterogenous nature of muscle injury in terms of injury type, depth and insulating adipose thickness. Contrary to current practice, it is unlikely that a ‘panacea’ cooling dose or duration exists in the clinical setting.” A paper from 2004 also indicates that there isn’t enough high quality evidence to determine the effectiveness of ice on injuries, and I can’t find that we’ve produced quality evidence since then. Science takes time and it’s hard to get funding. In the meantime, I am using an ice pack sporadically when I think about it, which is probably ineffective regardless of whether icing injuries has any actual benefit.
Featured image: Bradley Eldridge via flickr