For decades, doctors, coaches and trainers around the world have advised us to put ice on sore, bruised, sprained or torn muscles to reduce pain and swelling. Ever since Dr. Gabe Mirkin came up with the acronym RICE – during the late seventies – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) has been the way to go to treat every athletic or muscle injury.
But is RICE truly the best thing to do to speed up healing and recovery, or does it need a revision? More recent research shows that icing and total rest may actually be doing just the opposite.
The numbers and studies do not lie, and even Dr. Mirkin had to come back to his own recommendation.
“Coaches have used my ‘RICE’ guideline for decades, but now it appears that both ice and complete rest may delay healing, instead of helping,” he wrote on his website.
In an article published by Mcleans.ca, Mirkin adds, “RICE is just something that stuck—and it’s wrong. I’m partially responsible for this misinformation.”
Inflammation, not always a bad thing
A recent study, published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal, suggests that inflammation just after an injury is an essential part of tissue regeneration and healing. Therefore, topical cooling or icing shouldn’t be used to stop or delay this important reaction.
Inflammation is a complex biological immune reaction where special cells and proteins are sent to the place of injury to promote healing. They release hormones into the damaged tissues that help them to heal. Same thing happens when our body is attacked by bacteria or viruses. Inflammation occurs and special cells or macrophages are sent to kill the invaders.
Now, despite decades-long advice, researchers found that applying ice actually delays the inflammatory reaction, angiogenesis and the formation of new muscle fibers. It causes blood vessels to constrict and shuts off the blood flow. Although this helps in numbing the pain, it also makes it impossible for inflammatory cells and proteins to reach the area of the injury and start the physical response to repair tissue and promote healing.
So the swelling and inflammation seems to be a good thing, and our body will naturally remove any swelling when the healing is done.
“These findings challenge the practice of using ice to treat muscle injuries,” the research team wrote.
These finding throw a whole new light on our current treatments and the prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Gerald Weissmann, editor of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 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 [help wounds] to heal.”
MCE, the new RICE
Next to the no-ice rule, the no-movement rule seems to be ready for revision, too. A study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercise, not total rest, may help heal ankle sprains much faster.
Through these findings, a new acronym was born to replace the old RICE, MCE, which excludes cold therapy or icing and total rest. It stands for Move safely when you can as much as you can, Compress and Elevate (MCE).
Sciences proves yet again that common methods considered beneficial can in fact be the worst thing to do. Therefore, it is important to keep questioning what we do every day and further investigate things we take for granted.
Next time you have sore, bruised, sprained or torn muscles, forget about the “RICE is nice” rule and keep it moving if you can.
This article by Amy Goodrich was first published by Natural News