Things are constantly evolving in the world of sports medicine. With a better understanding of how the human body works, comes an ever changing understanding of how best to treat it. One such notion which needs to be challenged is the age old acronym of R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) used for the management of acute injuries.
The “Rest” part of this strategy may in fact cause delayed healing and muscle atrophy. Several studies that have compared early PAIN-FREE movement to complete rest have shown decreased healing times and improved pain.
As I stated above, what is quite important is to start moving early on, but specifically without pain. Even some serious injuries/operations should allow for a degree of movement that is pain free.
Another area of uncertainty is the application of “ICE”. Whilst there is evidence that ice causes a numbing effect on tissue (by decreasing the speed and transmission of nerves), thereby reducing pain, the notion that icing decreases the inflammatory response and speeds up healing is being challenged.
Some studies are showing that the application of early ice (for 20 minutes in the acute stage of an injury) may in fact reduce the healing potential of tissue, and cause longer term negative effects on the healing collagen. So if your intention is to reduce pain, then ice may be appropriate, but if you think you are assisting the body healing process, think again…
WHAT IS NOW BEING SUGGESTED IS A NEW ACRONYM – M.E.A.T
MOVEMENT – as discussed earlier, must be pain-free
EXERCISE – the correct exercises done early on have been shown to reduce muscle wasting and improve outcomes
ANALGESICS – used to control acute pain, but be careful not to “mask” the pain so you can go back to activity too quickly. Again, avoid anti-inflammatories at first.
TREATMENT – from a Physiotherapist or other sports medicine practitioner. We can use other modalities to improve circulation and assist healing.
The Editor in Chief of The Physician and Sports Medicine Journal was quoted as saying,”Do you honestly believe that your body’s natural inflammatory response is a mistake?” I’ve said it in my article on anti-inflammatories, the first stage of healing is INFLAMMATION, but it seems we have all been hell-bent on trying to stop this.
It would appear that the more we learn about how to heal the human body, the more we realize it does a pretty good job, all on its own!