For many years now, athletes across the world and those who simply dabble in various sports during their free time have been following the rule known as RICE, which was initially recommended by Dr. G. Mirkin way back in the 1970s. RICE means Rest, Ice Compression and Elevation, a method designed to help prevent further injuries following an accident during a sporting event. However, in recent years, this method has come under fire - with many questioning whether or not it is actually effective at treating a muscle injury.
Ice works by decreasing blood flow to a specific area of the body, thus removing the swelling and inflammation that tends to follow a significant sports injury. Back when the RICE method was introduced, however, doctors knew very little of sports injuries, in fact. Believe it or not, inflammation is actually useful for an injury. It is important because it begins the natural healing process within the body. When an injury is experienced, blood vessels in the immediate area dilate, causing swelling and warmth. This increased blow flow actually brings in proteins and cells that aid in the healing process.
Ice, despite what we all have heard, is actually quite counter intuitive to the healing of a sports injury. If you use ice to delay the inflammation, this will also delay the overall healing of your injury, causing potentially worse long-term damage.
Ice will often lead to a significant decrease in blood flow within the area, plus a decrease in:
"Ice Feels Good, Though!"
- Potent Chemicals
- Repair Proteins
- Repair Cells
While this is very true, that ice does feel good on a new wound, that is the only benefit it offers the body during the overall healing process. Using ice immediately after an injury is fine, but only when done in short bursts. Ice the area for a maximum of five minutes, then remove the ice for a good 30 minutes afterwards to let blood flow back into the area. After a couple of hours of this method, the injury will not require the use of ice whatsoever.
Icing a sports injury is mostly used for minor pain. Anything more significant than a bit of bruising, scrapes, or some inflammation in a specific area should be treated with other methods - or perhaps a doctor. Ice is a wonderful tool to manage pain levels within the body, but do not expect it to be a cure-all for a sports injury.
Again, simply use ice in moderation. No more than five minutes at a time should be effective enough to counter the pain and uncomfortable feelings that stem from inflammation and an injury while playing a game. After those five minutes, though, allow the body do it what it does best and heal the wound and any damaged tissue or cells within the body via a totally natural method that has worked for longer than anyone can remember by now.