Question of the Week Podcast

Question of the Week episode

Tue, 3rd Jul 2012

Does ice really reduce swelling and speed up healing?

Ice cubes (c) Dave Ansell

We find out if applying ice to an injury actually helps to speed up healing. Plus we ask, would dining with a silver spoon make your food taste better?

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In this edition of Question of the Week

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  • Does ice really reduce swelling and speed up healing?

    I am intrigued by the constant use of ice packs for all manner of things including sports injuries, post surgical healing such as knee and hip replacements. However I have never been able to find any convincing scientific evidence that there is a rational basis for the use of ice...



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vessels are ruptured , excess flow/swelling needs slowing CZARCAR, Mon, 25th Jun 2012

what effect would cold have on inflammatory chemicals, kinins, etc? Isnt that part of what causes pain beside swollen tissues pressing on nerves? cheryl j, Thu, 28th Jun 2012

It's a double edged sword. Ice could retard any bacterial growths that might occur that would further infect a cut say, but it would also slow down natural healing processes. Swelling like fevers are part of the natural design to aid in healing. james oliver, Sat, 30th Jun 2012

I have been wondering about this ever since I joined my high school cross country team and everyone used ice packs and baths (submerging the legs in a tub of 50 degree Fahrenheit water) after a run. I kept if it was really good for you and how it worked, and I never got a satisfying response. I thought that it would actually slow down the healing process by slowing the conversion of lactate back to pyruvate, thereby making you sore longer but because it was cold, you wouldn't feel it. When I asked my coach just said it reduces inflammation and that somehow helps the healing process (at the time I didn't know what happened during the inflammation process). So I thank you for explaining. Estelle, Thu, 20th Aug 2015

Isn't this uncertainty a very clear argument for a point of care randomised trial? Hugh Davies, Sun, 6th Dec 2015

The role of ice has been studied in a number of trials. See this 2012 paper as a starting point: www(dot) Stevebar, Wed, 23rd Dec 2015

In my Chef years ice or ice water was indispensable for treating burns, as far as other things for a swollen joint ice helps mrsmith2211, Sat, 9th Jan 2016

I think ice helps healing because the body's see ice A's a treat and sends more cell to repair the damage cells that died in the processes wen ice is apply during swelling Gerardo Giron, Tue, 14th Jun 2016

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