LASER AND ICE By Dr. Phil Harrington Your team is on a run, playing the best they have all year when suddenly the starting point guard drives hard to the basket, steps on an opponent’s foot and suffers a sprained ankle. Not bad enough to end his season, but it will disrupt team chemistry leading to the conference tournament. What do you do? For years, ice has been used to treat acute injuries under the premise that it alleviates pain, reduces tissue metabolism, and reduces swelling. It has been a standard treatment for injuries and sore muscles because it helps to relieve pain caused by injured tissue. Trainers have used the “RICE” (rest, ice, compression, elevation) guideline for decades, but now it appears that both ice and immobilization may delay healing. Dr. Gabe Mirkin who coined the term RICE in 1978, points out that healing requires inflammation; and anything that reduces or suppresses inflammation will also delays healing. This would include ice, along with cortisone injections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and immune suppressants. “Applying ice to injured tissue causes blood vessels near the injury to constrict and shut off the blood flow that brings in the healing cells of inflammation”, wrote Dr. Mirkin. “When you damage tissue through trauma or develop muscle soreness by exercising very intensely, you heal by using your immunity, the same biological mechanisms that you use to kill germs. This is called inflammation.”[i] Normal injury healing progresses sequentially through the stages of inflammation, proliferation, remodeling and maturation. Interrupting the first stage – inflammation – will adversely affect the timing and effectiveness of the subsequent three stages. So, if you plunge the point guard’s foot and ankle into an ice bath, and then advise him to apply ice several times a day, you are making the injury worse, not better. Icing injured tissue causes constriction of blood vessels near the injury which shuts off the blood flow that brings in the healing cells of inflammation. What’s a better solution? Photobiomodulation (PBM), more commonly known as laser therapy. Therapeutic laser devices deliver red and infrared wavelengths of light to both superficial and deep tissues to enhance blood circulation, increase tissue oxygenation and improve metabolic activity. In turn this helps the body progress through the healing stages of inflammation, proliferation, remodeling and maturation. Treatments with a class 4 therapeutic laser are safe and non-invasive and can be applied immediately after injury. So instead of delaying your point guard’s recovery with ice, consider getting him back on the court more quickly with laser therapy. [i]https://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html