Stop Using RICE for Injuries!
Let me know if this sounds familiar. You’re out for a run at the park and you’re coming up behind a couple that are walking down the sidewalk. They don’t hear you coming, so you avoid them by running into the grass to go around them. WHAM! You step into a hole and roll your ankle pretty bad. It swells up immediately. You limp home and what do you do?
You do what every doctor and your mother always told you to do: RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Well what if I told you that was wrong? Crazy, I know. But, hear me out. There may be a time and a place for RICE, but it isn’t for something like an ankle sprain and especially not for an injury that has been bothering you for months.
I just want to focus on the first two pieces of RICE, rest and ice, and explain why movement is a better option.
Why Not Rest?
The last thing we want to do is rest. We want to maintain good blood flow because it promotes the natural healing process. The body has a complicated cascade of events in place that trigger and take care of something like this. We just need to assist it by maintaining good blood flow.
Movement also provides compression (not to say that things like compression socks aren’t helpful). The muscles surround the veins, so when the muscle contracts it squeezes the blood vessel and pushes fluid back up to the heart to eventually re-circle throughout the body. In short, it reduces swelling in the area of injury.
Movement can mask the pain signals. Your brain chooses which signals to process and bring to the front of your mind. Have you ever had an injury that is basically non-existent or barely noticeable during the day, but as soon as you lay down in bed for the night it feels like someone cranked up the dial on your pain. Well it’s likely because you aren’t moving anymore, so your brain does not have the signal from all of your muscles and joints to mask the pain signals like it did while you were walking around and going about your day.
Why Not Ice?
Ice is very counter-intuitive to what we want when an injury is healing because it is a vasoconstrictor. This means that it makes the blood vessels narrower and reduces the blood flow to that area. Well I just said that we want to bring in more blood flow right? That is why it doesn’t make much sense to use ice for an injury and it can actually delay the healing process.
If anything, we may want to use heat because it is a vasodilator (widens the blood vessels) and brings in more blood flow, but I always prescribe movement initially because it is the ultimate blood flow improver.
If you are struggling with an injury that you are constantly trying to ice or rest away, then click this link right here to request a FREE consultation so we can talk about better options to permanently take care of your injury!
5/13/2020 08:07:16 am
Brett, thanks for the information! You're right! I have heard RICE forever and ever!
5/19/2020 08:17:16 pm
You're welcome! Hope this helps in the future.
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Dr. Brett Dick, PT, DPT