Whenever we see a sports injury in the clinic we always ask if they used ice in the initial stages of the management of the injury. Often the reply is “I’m not sure whether to use ice or heat”?

There has been ongoing research and discussions on this topic for many years now and the majority of this research tends towards the ongoing use of ice and the added use of Movement or Protection, hence MICE or PRICE.

The question is how long do we apply the ice for? Well, some research papers recommend for the first 48 hours. Others say until the inflammation has stopped and the swelling is starting to subside. It’s very hard to say what is going to work for everybody or every injury. So it’s a matter of getting some advice from a health professional, whether that is your Sports Trainer, physiotherapist or even team doctor. They may all have a different viewpoint and that will depend on the type of injury sustained.

Now in the acute stage of the injury it is recommended to at least slow down the amount of inflammation that the injury is creating. This combined with some compressions may also have the effect of giving you the confidence that a joint is being supported and this psychological benefit also helps to speed up the rate of recovery.

The other benefit is that it acts as pain relief for the injured person and once again as the pain is being reduced the psychological benefits of this for the injured person are well documented.

Some recent research has documented that the use of MICE – Movement, Ice, Compression and Elevation – promotes a better response for healing of the damaged tissue, then keeping the tissue or the joint immobilised.

Early movement of damaged tissue after injury has shown to the very beneficial. Taking the tissues through a range of movement also acts as a way of orientating the scar tissue fibres into the same orientation as muscle tissue fibres, thereby reducing time out of your sport.

The challenge is to know when to stop how far to go. Sometimes less is best. Too much movement you may cause damage to tissue, so is a matter of being guided by your allied health professional.

More information on this topic can be found here

Another post from Royal Australian College of General Practitioners on the same subject