Is Using RICE for Recovery Wrong?

Anything That Reduces Inflammation Delays Healing

Perhaps the most compelling argument to stop using RICE comes from the doctor that coined the term. On Mirkin's website, he states that anything that reduces the body's immune response (inflammation) delays muscle healing. This includes cortisone drugs, nearly all pain-relieving medications including NSAIDs like ibuprofen, immunosuppressants, the application of cold packs or ice and anything else that blocks the immune response to injury.

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If Not RICE, Then What?

If you're seriously injured, see your medical professional. Consider their recommendations and be willing to ask questions.

If you're attempting to recover from a difficult workout or race, keep moving. Do movements that don't cause pain; keep the affected muscles working and blood moving. These movements can be as small as flexing and relaxing your quadriceps, for example. As you recover, add bigger movements like riding a bike or walking.

Complete rest is no longer recommended.

Currently, there is no evidence that icing your legs, arms or entire body will speed the recovery process after a tough workout or race. There's no evidence that sitting in an ice bath will help you recover quicker.

There is some evidence that ice reduces pain. If pain management is the goal, consider using Mirkin's recommendations of applying ice for up to, and no more than, 10 minutes at a time. Remove the ice for 20 minutes and repeat this cycle only once or twice. He recommends icing no more than six hours after the initial injury.

Is this recommendation uniform? No. It is, however, a place to begin if you need to manage pain.

As for the compression and elevation components of RICE, these are still sound treatment options. Compression and elevation can keep swelling (the accumulations of waste fluids) from collecting at your injured body part. Mirkin's recommendations do include elevation and compression, when possible.

If you're are unsure what the best course of action is for you, don't hesitate to ask questions from multiple professionals to determine the right treatment plan.

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