What is RICE and does it work?

The RICE method has been a long-standing technique to quickly treat pain, inflammation and swelling after an acute (sudden) soft tissue injury like an ankle sprain or strain. However, some research is showing that this method could be outdated. Inflammation resulting from a sprain or strain is actually an important process that initiates tissue regeneration and repair, but TOO much edema or a hematoma can delay healing. So how much inflammation is “good”? There are a handful of other acronyms which may be more appropriate, depending on the situation. Let’s review the options and discuss which may be most effective!

RICE: (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) This method is MOST effective when used immediately after a minor injury to help reduce pain, significant swelling and significant inflammation. It would make sense for you to use RICE for 24-72 hours after getting hurt.

POLICE: (Protection, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation) Protection emphasizes the importance of avoiding further tissue damage, but doesn’t imply complete immobilization. Optimal loading will stimulate the healing process as tissue REQUIRES some loading to stimulate healing. Complete rest would prevent this. Ice, compression and elevation would assist in managing inflammation without preventing it entirely. Research shows that the POLICE method is superior and more effective than the RICE method for acute soft tissue injuries, especially beyond 72 hours, post-injury.

MEAT: (Movement, Exercise, Analgesics, Treatment) AFTER utilizing the POLICE method for a couple of days, it might be time to move on to the MEAT treatment method. The act of MOVEMENT increases blood flow which promotes healing. EXERCISE will help the healing process continue and could be a great time for you to work with a physical therapist. ANALGESICS are medicines that can reduce pain and stress – managing pain is important because pain can make it harder to move! Consult your PCP to determine the right analgesics for you. TREATMENT is the part of the process that will get you back to 100%. Sure, being pain-free is important….but making sure that the structure is strong and resilient to prevent future injury is the ULTIMATE goal.

If you have experienced an acute injury and would like to consult with a Physical Therapist about what to do, please feel free to book a complimentary introductory appointment!