Why Ice and an Anti-Inflammatory Slows the Healing Process When Dealing With Injuries

So Dean Wilson and Eli Tomac both have suffered from contusions in their shoulders. A contusion is a bruising of the soft tissue and rupture of the blood capillaries. Capillaries are the smaller versions of veins. Because those capillaries are rupture that is why you see bruising.

Both Dean Wilson and Eli Tomac have suffered from contusions in their shoulders. A contusion is a bruising of the soft tissue and rupture of the blood capillaries. Capillaries are the smaller versions of veins. Because those capillaries are rupture that is why you see bruising.

Now here is a cool thing to note. The veins and arteries have muscles within them to expend and contract. Vasoconstriction is when the veins and arteries get smaller. Vasodilation when the and arteries open larger to allow more blood flow. When you apply ice to an are you are vasoconstriction the area of blood. When using heat, the opposite happens as the veins and arteries open.

The Injury Process

So lets walk through the process of an injury. Dean and Eli hurt their shoulder. The first thing this going to happened physiologically is inflammation. Now immediately most people have been taught that inflammation is bad and tie a negative feeling towards it. Chronic inflammation is bad not acute inflammation.

Inflammation is the signal to bring nutrients to the area to help repair the area. If you stop this from happening, you slow down the healing process. The swelling is the vehicle that brings the nutrients to heal the area. So would you want to vasoconstrict the blood flow to the injured area? No. So ice is not the best way to start treating an injury. Ice does help with pain. So if its really painful yes put ice.

Hot and Cold Contrast

Dean Wilson went to get cryotherapy on his shoulder which the opposite of what we have just discussed. It won’t stop him from healing, but it will slow down the process.

So what about hot cold contract? When applying cold to the shoulder you are constricting the area of blood flow and backing up the lymphatic system and the inflammatory process which slows down the recovery time. When applying heat, you increase the blood flow to an area which can help bring more nutrients to the area. Can you go back and forth to “pump” the inflammation out? The answer is no. The lymphatic system is a passive system which we will get in to later.


The next way we slow down the healing process is by taking an anti-inflammatory. By taking an anti-inflammatory, we stop the sending the signal to the body that nothing is injured and tell the body to disregard the emergency call of injured tissues. Chemically we pause the healing process. So, do not take an anti-inflammatory to try and control inflammation. Your body is smart enough to regulate inflammation.

So, after the inflammation is there, the healing process can begin to take place. The repair and rebuild process has taken place. Now here is where the major problem lies and why most injuries linger. We have to evacuate the area of the left-over inflammation. This inflammation must be evacuated through the lymphatic system.

Two Systems of Circulation

There are two systems circulatory and lymphatic system. The left-over swelling particles are too big to evacuate through the circulatory system. So naturally these particles will pass through the lymphatic system. This same system is a passive system meaning that the only way to move the inflammation is though muscle contraction.

Remember the protocol Rice? Rest, ice, Compression, elevation. Resting will not evacuate the area from the left-over inflammation. That is why hot and cold contrast baths do not work. Muscle contraction is what flushes out the left over inflammation not vasoconstriction and vasodilation.

Chronic Pain

The internal pressure build up from an injury is what can cause chronic pain. That is one reason some injuries become chronic injuries. So immobilizing a joint will not help for faster recover. Pain Free movement will flush the area from inflammation, increase the temperature, causing vasodilation bringing more nutrients to recover, and will create functional scar tissue.

So avoid ice, anti- inflammatory, and immobilizing a joint.

The do’s are move with pain free movement, eat right, and keep the joint mobile. Another way to get the muscle moving around the area is through a muscle stimulator. This is a small electric shock that contracts the muscles enough to flush out the area of inflammation.

Ponder This…

So how can shutting off the signal for inflammation help with quicker recovery when recovery relies on inflammation and movement to recover?

Just a thought.

Movement, Compression, and Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape works by lifting the skin to allow more blood flow in and out of the area. I have used this method multiple times for an injury and it is one of the quickest and cheapest ways to rid and area of excess inflammation.

Recover smarter and train better for motocross. You see these guys drop like flies right now. Strength train to develop a resilient body so that you can walk away from a crash when you ride.