Icing Your Injuries vs. Using Acupuncture for Pain Management

Last week we discussed the traditional concept of cold and its effect on our circulation. This week we will look into the difference of using ice versus using acupuncture for pain management. To recap, cold climate has a contracting, and therefore slowing, force on our circulation. There is no living place in our bodies where blood (like water) does not flow. Imagine your body is full of rivers. Applying cold to it becomes the ice that first accumulates along the river banks, therefore slowing its progress.  Modern research confirms that topically applied cold does operates the same way. Therefore, applying ice to your body in fact slows down the blood flow and inflammatory process. 

So what?

Using ice for soreness and injuries began in the 1970’s and until recently, this notion, largely, has not been challenged. However, we have more recently discovered that icing injuries actually slows the recovery process itself. In fact, icing can cause tissue damage as a result of obstructing blood flow. In order for injuries to heal, blood needs to be able to rush to the site to increase blood circulation and oxygenation of the cells at the affected area. Using acupuncture for pain management is a great way to get the blood flowing and deliver oxygen to the cells. 

Improving an injury, or soreness recovery, is really more about movement, warmth, and appropriate rest. For more severe injuries, options like herbal formulas, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, and/or strength training all can help. In conclusion, healing well should focus more on promoting blood flow, versus preventing it, getting the tissues to move correctly, and speeding it up as fast as possible. The practice of using acupuncture for pain management is a great way to tackle all three steps together. One might be able to say that challenging the practice of icing injuries with research is chipping away at a frozen practice!

Dr. Mark VanOtterloo is a licensed acupuncturist and Doctor of Acupuncture, located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He is an integrative, functional medicine practitioner specializing in chronic disease and women’s health. To learn more about how acupuncture can help with your Bell’s Palsy schedule an appointment online.