Hang on, one of those things you think you know to be true is about to change.
For decades we were told that if you suffer a sports injury you are supposed to put ice on it.
That is no longer the case.
If you have been used to using the RICE formula after twisting your ankle, it’s time to change.
Oh, the person who came up with the RICE formula also thinks his ideas on rest need to be revised too.
RICE stands for:
REST – Completely stop all activity
ICE – 20 Minutes of ice on the injury, 20 minutes off for 48 hours
COMPRESS – Compression garments seem to help
ELEVATE – Lift the injured area above the heart to slow down blood flow
This is what used to be the standard of care.
But the man who gave us this formula for healing is saying “ice and complete rest is wrong.”
Dr. Gabe Mirkin who coined the term RICE in his 1978 bestselling book, “Sportsmedicine,” has published an article where he explains why putting ice on your injury is a bad idea.
When you twist or strain a joint or muscle, or just injure yourself, the body springs into action to initiate repairs.
Often the area becomes warm to the touch because the body creates inflammation in the injured area. It is killing damaged cells and invading pathogens.
Dr. Mirkin believes the evidence shows that without the inflammation, there is no healing and cooling the area actually delays healing.
In The American Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2013, a study was published that showed how cold therapy just delays healing.
The athletes trained to the point of injury, and ice was applied to the injured areas.
While the ice did delay the inflammation, it did nothing but delay the eventual inflammation and healing.
Mirkin also points out that there have been 22 studies which looked at ice and compression, and they found no difference between ice and compression versus compression alone.
But there was one study that showed ice plus exercise may marginally help to heal ankle sprains which was published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2004.
Inflammation is not the problem; inflammation is the healer.
Our bodies’ natural response to injury is the healing elixir. Stopping healing inflammation is actually working against your best interest.
When you damage a body part through trauma, your body rushes proteins and immunity cells to the area just as it would to fight infection. Technically this is called inflammation.
Unlike chronic inflammation which is where the body almost overreacts to damage for an extended period of time which is dangerous, this short-term inflammation in response to an injury is good, it promotes healing.
“The inflammatory cells called macrophages release a hormone called Insulin-like growth Factor (IGF-1) into the damaged tissues, which helps muscles and other injured parts to heal. However, applying ice to reduce swelling actually delays healing by preventing the body from releasing IGF-1.”
In short, ice prevents healing cells from entering the injured area.
While the cooling might reduce pain, it slows down your healing. But in order to get a handle on the pain to get a sense of the real amount of damage, putting ice on the injury for 10 minutes might help access the injury.
Elevation seems to safely reduce the amount of swelling, and compression seems to help there too.
Soft tissue injuries need to be taken seriously and allow the bodies’ own natural repair systems to work optimally, which means it is time to ditch the ice and move as much as you safely can.