Saturday, October 12, 2013
"Ice, Ice, Baby."
"...I don't like ice. Heat feels much better."
When muscles and fascia are used beyond their "normal" working limits, sometimes "micro-tearing" of the offended fibers occurs. This creates an emergency response by our immune system that says, "Damage has been done! Activate healing squads!" White blood cells and lymphatic fluid come to isolate the area and start repairing what is perceived to be a problem. Once the nerves of the area get involved, this manifests as pain, which can also be called inflammation. The body always tries to re-establish itself to its current "known" equilibrium. When pushed beyond this comfort-zone to the point of pain, many people think it is okay to add heat to relieve pain. It seems logical, since the very first moments of life on this planet is spent in a warm and balmy environment inside the mother's womb. The trouble with this yearning to return to that cozy, warm feeling that makes us feel safe and nurtured, is that the inflammation is further fed.
Inflammation is exactly what the term sounds like. It is a cellular "flame" brought on internally to bring extra blood and fluid to a damaged area The body does this to brace from further damage and coddle the cells to returning to equilibrium with extra nutrients and waste-product removal. This "damage control" has a purpose. When actions threaten the re-building of damaged tissue, the body's action is stopped by the inflammatory response until the problem gets fixed. Injuries take time to heal. The body can get over-zealous in this splinting function. When our tissues become so engorged with blood and lymph racing to the rescue of damaged tissues, vascular function is slowed. This can create a "hot-spot" where waste-products congregate and damaged tissues languish because they can't get the oxygen and nutrients they need to fix themselves. It is a catch 22.
Eventually, in a healthy working body, this inflammation "should" clear itself out. The trouble with this is that "time-passed equals cooling of the tissues" which opens up the possibility of further tearing. Cooled tissues get stiff, and sometimes, hard (see #scars). Equilibrium is distorted. The inflammatory response keeps doubling over on top of itself to stop the increasing threats of damage. It is a vicious, progressive circle. The way to keep the inflammation from running rampant is to ICE the area of injury right away. This drives the lymph and blood out of the damaged area for a spell so the integrity of the damaged cellular structures can be assessed by the body's own inherent intelligence. Excess inflammatory response is slowed, and the offended nerve endings calling for the inflammatory response are dulled. Once the ice is removed, normal healing processes commence, flooding the area with a blood and lymph "wash". Repeated icing of the area balances the inflammatory response to quicken healing.
Although heat has a place getting the repaired tissue back to proper length for efficient function, the initial control over the inflammatory response is encouraged by ice. Yeah, it might not "feel" as good as heat, at first. Control over the pain with ice, however, will pay dividends to the healing process. As a certain pop culture figure said, "Ice, ice, baby." It truly is your friend.
Bright Blessings and Happy Healing!!! :)