Most of us have been taught from a young age to ice injuries. I remember ice packs always being available on the sidelines of my high school sport practices and games. But now years later more research is being done on ice, and the results aren't great...
The reality is that yes, ice can act as a local analgesic- it can numb your experience of pain. But unfortunately, it doesn't offer any other benefits. The application of ice reduces swelling by inhibiting the inflammatory response. Inflammation has been given a bad rap in recent years, but guess what- inflammation is an important part of the healing process! Ice also reduces blood flow, and your tissues need blood to function! Blood brings healing cells with it into injured areas. Without fresh blood flow, healing is further delayed.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who coined the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate), is even retracting his recommendations. Believe it or not we have learned a lot since he published this protocol in 1978. While he still recommends rest, compression, and elevation after an injury he says that ice should be used as a pain-reliever alone for a maximum of 10 minute intervals, and that there's no place for ice six hours after an injury.
Unfortunately I still have patients come in saying that they've been told by their doctors and physical therapists to ice their old injuries! Please, please educate yourself on this. Ice can temporarily alleviate pain in the short term, but it will delay healing and may cause further complications (including decreased strength & function, and nerve damage).
Have you been icing your old injuries? Here are some more resources so you can make an educated decision whether you should continue this practice or not: