Even if you’re not a dedicated athlete, chances are you’ve seen the acronym R.I.C.E thrown around when dealing with injuries involving muscle tissue. R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), first coined in 1978 by Dr. Gabe Mirkin in his best-selling book, The Sports Medicine Book, is a widely used method for treating injuries for everyone from famous athletes to kids at P.E. You may have even relied on this technique yourself — but should you have? There have been numerous scientific studies that are proving that ice may not be the ultimate solution after all.
So why doesn’t ice work? Many people who’ve used the technique may argue that it’s benefitted them – but was it the ice or a combination of compression and elevation that did the trick? When ice is initially applied to damaged or sore muscles, it may provide momentarily relief in the form of pain reduction and numbness. But that’s where the benefits seem to end. When your tissue gets damaged or is overly exerted, your body treats the issue similar to how it would an infection. In both cases, your body sends inflammatory cells to the area to help it heal. In 2010, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology conducted a research study that shows that the inflammation we experience after an injury is actually important for repairing the damaged tissue. 1 By applying ice, we stop that inflammation from doing its job.
Dr. Mirkin, the creator of the term R.I.C.E, released an article explaining why he no longer supports ice as the go-to for healing injuries. He states, “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.” 2 While icing may offer short-term relief, extended use of ice can actually damage your nerves, exasperate pain, and delay the healing process.
If you do choose to ice your injury, do so only for short periods of time to ensure you don’t damage the tissue. A good rule of thumb is to apply ice for roughly 5-10 minutes, then keep the ice off for 20-30 minutes, then repeat this process no more than two or three times. It’s important to remember that if the injury is very serious, you should seek the help of a medical professional.
If after you’ve recovered from a sports injury but still don’t feel like you’ve healed to your former self – consider the therapeutic and healing properties of a sports massage from LA Orthopedic Sports Massage!
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. (2010, October 5). Surprise: Scientists discover that inflammation helps to heal wounds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 19, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101004130105.html
- Dr. Mirkin.com. (2015, September 16). Why Ice Delays Recovery. Dr.Mirkin.com. Retrieved October 19th, 2017 from http://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html