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Why putting ice on injuries may slow healing

Why putting ice on injuries may slow healing Inflammation helps repair the damage

Putting ice - or a pack of frozen peas - on an injury to reduce swelling may not be such a good idea after all, as scientists say that inflammation is an essential part of the healing process.

The discovery, published in the FASEB Journal, turns conventional wisdom - which says that inflammation must be controlled to promote healing - on its head.

Researchers say the findings could lead to new treatments for muscle injury caused by trauma, chemicals, infections, freeze damage, and medications, which cause muscle damage as a side effect.

Researcher Lan Zhou, from the Neuroinflammtion Reserch Centre at the Cleveland Clinic, said: "We hope that our findings stimulate further research to dissect different roles played by tissue inflammation in clinical settings, so we can utilise the positive effects and control the negative effects of tissue inflammation."

During acute muscle injury, researchers discovered that inflammatory cells produce high levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which significantly increases the rate of muscle regeneration.

In the study, they compared how two groups of mice responded to acute muscle injury. The first group of mice were genetically altered so they could not make an inflammatory response to injury and the second group consisted of normal unaltered mice.

All mice were injected with barium chloride to cause muscle injury. The genetically altered mice which could not make an inflammatory response did not heal, but the second group of normal mice repaired the injury.

Further investigations showed the inflammatory cells within the injured muscle tissue produced a high level of IGF-1.

Gerald Weissmann, editor in chief of the FASEB Journal, said: "For wounds to heal we need controlled inflammation, not too much, and not too little.

"It's been known for a long time that excess anti-inflammatory medication, such as cortisone, slows wound healing. This study goes a long way to telling us why: insulin-like growth factor and other materials released by inflammatory cells helps wound to heal."

This article was published on Wed 27 October 2010

Image © Mark Herreid -

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