Why icing doesn't work to heal injuries

March 31, 2015, American Physiological Society

Applying ice to a muscle after injury is a commonly prescribed therapy for treating muscle bruises. But does it really speed recovery time and help the muscle to heal?

Researchers from the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at Queensland University of Technology in Australia investigated whether icing after a muscle impact injury contributed to new blood vessel formation () and .

The research team looked at two groups of rats with thigh contusions. One group received ice within five minutes of injury for 20 minutes. The second group received no ice. During the acute phase three days after injury, infiltration of inflammatory cells and the markers of angiogenesis—vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and von Willebrand factor (vWF)—were lower in the icing group compared with the non-icing group. During the early repair phase (seven days), inflammatory cell numbers were higher, while VEGF and vWF expression remained lower, in the icing group compared with the non-icing group. In the late repair phase (28 days), inflammatory cell numbers, VEGF expression and the number of regenerating muscle fibers were all greater in the icing group (causing less inflammation and swelling) compared with the non-icing group. Muscle fiber cross-sectional area was similar between the groups at seven and 28 days after injury.

Despite popular belief, inflammation can be an important process in tissue regeneration. The results suggest that ice may delay inflammation, angiogenesis and the formation of new during recovery from severe . "These findings challenge the practice of using ice to treat injuries," the research team wrote. Practitioners should therefore reconsider how they use treatments such as icing and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to manage acute soft tissue injuries.

Jonathan Peake will present "The Effects of Topical Icing after Contusion Injury on Angiogenesis in Regenerating Skeletal Muscle" in a poster session on Monday, March 30, at the Experimental Biology Meeting (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Explore further: Out-of-step cells spur muscle fibrosis in Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients

Related Stories

Out-of-step cells spur muscle fibrosis in Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients

October 14, 2014
Like a marching band falling out of step, muscle cells fail to perform in unison in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. A new study in The Journal of Cell Biology reveals how this breakdown leads to the proliferation ...

Putting a 'HEX' on muscle regeneration

October 1, 2012
A complex genetic regulatory network mediates the regeneration of adult skeletal muscles. In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in ...

Trigger mechanism for recovery after spinal cord injury revealed

December 18, 2014
After an incomplete spinal cord injury, the body can partially recover basic motor function. So-called muscle spindles and associated sensory circuits back to the spinal cord promote the establishment of novel neuronal connections ...

Researchers discover a key to making new muscles

September 7, 2014
Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) have developed a novel technique to promote tissue repair in damaged muscles. The technique also creates a sustainable pool of muscle stem cells ...

Recommended for you

Teen personality traits linked to risk of death from any cause 50 years later

November 20, 2018
Personality traits evident as early as the teenage years may be linked to a heightened or lessened risk of death around 50 years later, suggests observational research of 'baby boomers,' published online in the Journal of ...

One in four U.S. adults sits more than eight hours a day

November 20, 2018
(HealthDay)—Couch Potato Nation: Nearly half of Americans sit for far too many hours a day and don't get any exercise at all, a new study finds.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are harmful to health and may be addictive, researchers suggest

November 20, 2018
Just as we might have guessed, those tasty, sugar-sweetened beverages that increase risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases may actually be addictive. Youth between 13 and 18 years of age who were deprived of sugary drinks ...

Emotional abuse may be linked with menopause misery

November 19, 2018
Smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle have long been linked to heightened symptoms of menopause. Now, a study headed by UC San Francisco has identified another factor that may add to menopause torment: an emotionally ...

How AI could help veterinarians code their notes

November 19, 2018
A team led by scientists at the School of Medicine has developed an algorithm that can read the typed-out notes from veterinarians and predict specific diseases that the animal may have.

Bullying and violence at work increases the risk of cardiovascular disease

November 19, 2018
People who are bullied at work or experience violence at work are at higher risk of heart and brain blood vessel problems, including heart attacks and stroke, according to the largest prospective study to investigate the ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 31, 2015
Asian martial arts and medicine does not use ice - is it not reasonable to examine their rationale and experience?

The use of herbal compounds seems to speed healing - by a wide margin.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.