Everyone gets hurt. If you’ve ever injured yourself, you probably iced it right away. RICE (Rest, Ice Compression, Elevation) is the treatment method doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors usually recommend. According to conventional Western medicine, ice halts the inflammation process associated with an acute injury, and reduces its associated pain.
But is this the best way to treat an injury? Our bodies react automatically to injury, based on physiological processes that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. The body uses inflammation in complex ways to fight foreign substances, remove damaged cells, irritants, pathogens, and initiate the healing process. Are we smarter than nature?
Both new and old research popularized by Kelly Starrett indicates that ice can hurt you more than it can help you.
Additionally, icing an area or using contrast baths (alternating immersion in cold and hot water) reduces nerve conduction, initially fighting pain but ultimately slowing down the body’s healing response.
Despite all the evidence, “To ice or not to ice?” is a continuing argument between allopathic practitioners and Chinese medicine practitioners.
What’s wrong with ice? It’s cold. Cold things congeal, rather than flow. Think of your leftovers - they tend to get harder and thicker when refrigerated, and they loosen up when heated. According to Chinese medicine:
Everyone agrees that swelling increases pain, potentially damages nearby tissues, and can worsen scarring. But rather than use ice, Chinese practitioners focus on improving the circulation of qi and blood to reduce swelling and promote healing.
To do so, we use the following tools:
For acute injuries, we should replace RICE with a new acronym - HAMEC. Herbal medicine (topical and oral), Acupuncture, Movement, Elevation, and Compression will heal your injury more quickly and permanently than RICE.