Should I Ice My Injuries?

You have probably heard of RICE after an injury (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate). But recent scientific evidence reveals that icing injuries is actually outdated advice! And here’s why: ice helps to decrease inflammation, but for healing to occur, our bodies need inflammation. Let’s take a look at how tissue healing works for a little science lesson: Whether you just had surgery or sprained your ankle, your tissues will go through 3 phases of healing:

  1. Inflammatory phase
  2. Proliferation phase
  3. Remodeling phase

There is a lack of evidence of the actual times these phases occur at. But, tissue healing processes should be viewed as a continuum with overlapping timeframes. All tissues will go through the same pattern of healing, but the timeframe may be different depending on the type of injury.

should i ice


Inflammatory Phase (Day 0-6)

The first part of the healing process is the inflammatory phase. This is where bleeding occurs due to widening of blood vessels (dilation) and the release of a chemical called histamine. Histamine helps other cells come into the area of healing, like white blood cells. Any dead tissue will be cleaned up.

Proliferation Phase (Day 4-24)

Cells that help build new tissue start to place new, immature tissue in random fashion. This tissue does not have the same tissue properties as healthy tissue. It is weaker than healthy tissue.

Remodeling Phase (Day 21-2 Years)

The new tissue that is “weak” (or immature) is being converted to more mature tissue. Why is this important to know? When we load tissue too fast, we may cause a disruption in this healing process. Likewise, we can also not load the tissue enough. This is especially important to help immature tissue become mature tissue. Tissues will adapt to the load we put on it!

What Should I Do?

We need inflammation to help the healing process. RICE may delay healing instead of helping! What should I do when I have an injury? Give it PEACE & LOVE!

Should I ice

Seek out physical therapy at MOSAIC to help rule out fractures, dislocations, or anything that may require emergency medicine. If you have questions, reach out to our adult physical therapist!

  2. Dubois B, Esculier J. Soft-tissue injuries simply need PEACE and LOVE.
  3. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2020;54:72-73.