Acupuncturists have long been against the use of ice for muscles soreness and repair of an injury. This is because of the idea that the cold literally gets into our joints and slows the circulation.
Within the last decade a number of research studies have come out questioning whether it is best to ice after an injury or for serious muscle fatigue.
The New York Times had an article outlining a recent publication that looked at the effect of icing muscles after a very strenuous workout. This study in mice showed that application of ice slowed down the healing process by slowing the clearing of injured tissue and the subsequent regeneration of tissue.
Why Don’t Acupuncturist recommend Ice?
In acupuncture the cold slows down the circulation of blood and Qi, the body’s energy. It’s one reason that people with chronic pain tend to feel more joint pain in the cold.
Application of ice is a version of the cold weather, driving the cold into the joints which slows the flow of qi and blood. Interestingly, this study showed that ice does impede the arrival of inflammatory cells and clearing the debris, a form of the stagnation long described by acupuncturists and Chinese medicine doctors.
What does an Acupuncturist do for an Injury and Muscle Soreness?
I will usually use acupuncture and cupping for an acute injury. This technique helps to reduce the swelling and inflammation and speed the healing. I also will use an external salve called San Huang San (The Three Yellows) as a topical anti-inflammatory. It is a bit messy but worth it if you have an injury.
Acupuncture and cupping is also effective at reducing muscle soreness in athletes. Sometimes we need to address specific areas of tightness and trigger points. Acupuncture has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect which speeds healing.