Iced! Book Cover


There is an innate desire in all of us to share our knowledge, to help the ones we love and care about.  I’m a bookworm and I have this strong aspiration to bring added value and share what I learn with the people around me.  The idea of starting a book review section to my blog seemed like a natural fit.  Hopefully you will find some interesting information in this blog and the ones that follow. 

My first book review is “Iced!” by Gary Reinl.  A book that explains the history of how we started using ice to treat injuries, the science behind the body’s natural reaction to injuries and why ice is not answer to help and speed up the healing process.  Finally, Gary tells us what we should do to assist our body heal faster.

Gary is a master story teller and his book is filled with stories about his own injuries and the athletes he’s had the privilege to work with. His message couldn’t be simpler and basic.  Icing is bad.  Really bad.  It doesn’t reduce swelling, it simply delays it.  According to Gary, there is no scientific data that proofs icing helps reduce swelling.  

We often interchange the words inflammation and swelling.  In fact, they are not the same thing.  Inflammation is there to help you and is part of the healing process.  

Swelling is your nemesis.

Inflammation happens after an injury, the increase fluid that comes from the inflammatory process is the first part of the healing process.  When there is insufficient muscle activation, the accumulation of the resulting waste becomes a problem.  When the fluids that came to the site of the injury to help with healing are trapped, this is what causes the swelling.  

This was news to me.  And because I didn’t know about the three phases of healing, let’s deviate from the book review for a moment and learn those three phases.

When we are injured (or cause some damage to our body, i.e. training), it is important to know that normal healing is impossible without the successful completion of all three stages. 


Stage 1: Inflammation. It is the body’s natural response to trauma.  Once the injury or damage has been inflicted, homeostasis begins.  The blood vessels constrict and seal themselves off.  The platelets create substances that form a clot and halt bleeding.  Once homeostasis is achieved, the blood vessels dilate, letting nutrients, white blood cells, antibodies, enzymes and other elements into the area to promote healing.  This is when swelling, pain, heat, redness would begin to be noticed.  

Stage 2: Proliferation. Macrophages arrive and aide the healing process by surrounding bacteria and dead cells before ingesting them to clear the area for new cells to grow.  Within days, phase 2 is well under way as fibroblasts begin to construct a new collagen matrix, which act as the framework for new tissue cells and accelerate the healing process.

Stage 3: Maturation, also called remodelling, is the last stage of the healing process.  This phase occurs after the wound has closed up and can take months or years to complete depending on the injury.


“Swelling is simply the accumulation of waste 

at the end of the inflammatory cycle.  This accumulation 

is due entirely to the lymphatic system’s failure 

to evacuate the waste - a process that can 

only be accelerated through muscle activation” 

writes Gary. 


Back to Gary, he goes on to explain that manypeople mistakenly believe that swelling is the core problem.  We all want the “junk” that comprises “swelling” to leave as quickly as possible, but we also have to recognize that swelling is an intricate and vital part of the solution.  

Swelling is the product of the phase of the inflammatory process that is “cleaning up the mess” and repairing the damaged tissue.  Trying to prevent swelling actually sabotages the actual goal: healing!

“Ice will only delay the inflammatory response, it will not, and fortunately cannot, permanently stop the healing process. ‘Extra fluid’ (swelling) is a necessary step in that process and ice will not help move the swelling in the right direction through the lymphatic system. To the contrary, it often does the opposite.”

If I may make another aside for a moment.  The second last sentence in the previous paragraph mentions the lymphatic system.  It’s important to know that our circulatory system, also called the vascular system, permits blood to circulate.  However, the waste fluids from the injury do not directly travel through the vascular system.  They need the lymphatic system, a subsystem of the circulatory system that consists of vessels, tissues and organs.  This system helps maintain fluid balance in the body by collecting excess fluid and particulatematter from tissues and depositing them in the bloodstream.   


How to recover without ice?

According to Gary, active recovery is essential to achieving optimal healing of damaged tissue.  This applies regardless if you are simply tired, sore from training sessions or if you are significantly injured.  

The goal and essential component, regardless of the method of muscle activation, is to cause pain free stress to sufficiently activate the involved muscles for the desired period of time, but not enough stress to cause fatigue 

Your only goal of this protocol is to facilitate the healing process.

Gary recommends to move the sore or injured area and to make sure you do so without having any pain.  For example, if you sprained your ankle, you may start by just moving the big toe, then eventually all your toes.  If you have a sore shoulder, you can do a lateral raise with your arm (with no weights) and as you lift your arm, you simultaneously tense up your muscles in order to obtain maximum contraction.  You would do this multiple times per day and for several days.  

Movement, pain free, and not enough to cause fatigue.  That’s the solution instead of using ice.  

If you have a muscle stimulator such as a Compex or Marc Pro, Gary recommends using them to create muscle contractions.  This will also speed up recovery as the muscle stimulator is contracting the muscles below and above the injury to help the lymphatic system move the waste away from the injury.  

In short, Gary’s book educated me on how to deal with injuries, nagging pains and how to recover from hard training sessions.  Invaluable knowledge all wrapped up in a little book that is very easy to read.  

 Additionally, if you'd like to hear more directly from Gary, please search on Youtube Gary Reinl and Kelly Starrett.  You'll find a few videos including one from 8 years ago or so that took the strenght & conditioning world by storm.

Lastly, I hope you enjoyed this bookd review.  If you can think of someone that would benefit from reading it, please share it with your family and friends.  

Yours in fitness,

Coach Guy