Why do we ice things?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 15, 2012 at 4:38 PM

When we hurt ourselves, why do we apply ice packs? Is it the same as taking tylenol for a fever? It seems like inflammation is useful when you have an actual injury and you wouldn't want to interfere with that process, no?

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3 Answers



on March 15, 2012
at 05:33 PM

We ice things for a few reasons:

  1. The cold signal interferes with the pain signal.

  2. We sometimes want to stop excessive swelling. Although swelling is very natural and is telling you to stop moving around and rest, sometimes we need to move around.

  3. Cold application (especially when repeated over time, or alternated with heat) increases blood movement/drainage in the area and can reduce the amount of inflammatory mediators that stick around. These mediators can stick around for longer than Mother Nature intended, and that's why cold application after the acute injury (into the chronic phase) can also be helpful.



on March 15, 2012
at 05:28 PM

Nassim Taleb has made the same observation.
It does appear we are treating symptoms rather than underlying cause when we ice injuries.


on March 15, 2012
at 05:01 PM

I always thought ice was to numb the area so you don't feel the pain.

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