Is R.I.C.E still Relevant?
The acronym RICE standards for rest, ice, compression and elevation. In 1978, Dr. Gabe Mirkin coined the phrase “RICE is nice” and ever since it has been used as the standard treatment for soft tissue injuries and sore muscles. Since 1978, 222 studies have been performed on the use of RICE to treat ankle sprains. The evidence found in these studies, along with others, have found the rest and ice components of RICE to be questionable. Dr. Mirkin has also stated in recent years that the use of RICE is an outdated treatment method and it should be adjusted.
As an athletic trainer for a high school, I am not always on-site when one of my athletes suffers an injury. Almost every time my athlete self-treats with RICE or rest and ice alone and this self-treatment can last for several weeks. My athletes treat themselves in this way to reduce the inflammation at their injured body part. However, inflammation is a vital part of the body’s healing process. Excessive use of ice can slow the healing process as it will constrict blood flow to the injured site and slow the influx of protective chemicals. Light and gentle stretching of the injured body part, beginning 2-3 days after the injury, has been shown to increase blood flow to the injured area and speed up the healing process.
This information is relevant for all athletes and parents so that they know how to properly self-treat a soft tissue injury if an athletic trainer is not present. Ice can be used within the first two days to help reduce pain and to prevent excess amounts of inflammation. After the first two days, gentle stretching of the injured site should be used to help speed up the healing process. This method of applying a gentle stretch or load to the injured site has been coined as POLICEing the injury. This acronym stands for protection, optimal loading, ice, compression and elevation. I encourage all athletes to attempt this method so that they can return to play faster.