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Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation(RICE)

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The Case of R.I.C.E

Most athletes have this acronym imprinted in their DNA; Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.  For decades, this has been the prescription of choice by sports medicine professionals, coaches, and athletes for injuries small and large, from contusion to broken bones and everything in between.  Rest prevented further damage, while a combination of ice, compression, and elevation were used to prevent swelling which was thought to hinder repair.  This age-old prescription has now come into question as the preferred method to treating sports injuries as we now believe that the swelling that comes from injuries may actually be beneficial to the injury recovery process. To understand this, we first must understand what swelling is.

Swelling is a natural reaction of the body to many different stimuli, it can result from allergies as well as from trauma like bruising a shin or twisting an ankle.  At its core, swelling is a reaction to the introduction of the hormone Histamine, which causes the capillaries in our skin to become more porous allowing for blood to leak into the surrounding tissue.  While this may sound dangerous what is really happening is that our blood contains other hormones and proteins that travel around the body helping repair damage on a cellular level.  When swelling occurs that helpful material in the blood is sent to the damaged area to begin repair.

While swelling can be hot and uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, our body is doing its best to repair its own cellular damage and some scientists are suggesting that this might not be a process that we want to stop.  But until we learn more about the body’s repair mechanism, most sports medicine professionals will prescribe RICE to sports injuries. RICE can prevent pain from overuse injuries and help us to continue to move at the pace that Crossfit athletes do!  But, as usual, consult with a coach, a sports medicine professional, or a doctor about your injuries and see what they prescribe for you!