Just when RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) finally became a common household acronym, MEAT (Movement, Exercise, Analgesics, Treatment) may soon replace it.
Icing, or cryotherapy, to resolve soft tissue injuries has been widely practiced since Dr. Gabe Mirkin first introduced this concept in 1978 for the healing of sports injuries. Today, however, Drs. Mirkin and Hauser believe that ice and rest may actually delay healing. Hauser and Mirkin are now promoting their preferred MEAT therapy protocol instead.
Topical cooling with an ice pack is often used to reduce the acute pain and inflammation of injured tissues, but recent studies show that icing shuts off the blood flow that brings in the healing cells. Incomplete healing occurs as a result, thereby increasing the likelihood of re-injury or developing chronic pain. Additionally, the ice can actually cause the tissue to die due to lack of blood flow.
Today we understand that inflammation is necessary for healing and the recovery of muscle cells and soft tissue regeneration. Damaged tissue actually needs inflammation to heal, and interrupting this inflammation can delay the recovery. Dr. Mirkin suggests that even NSAIDs would compromise the inflammation, and therefore compromise the healing process of the tissue.
Cryotherapy expert and science writer Paul Ingraham disagrees. Ingraham suggests applying raw ice directly to the skin without a layer of plastic or fabric between the skin and the ice. He recommends the method of sliding the ice in a massaging motion over the inflamed area for 1-3 minutes, or until the tissue is numb, and then stopping. When the tissue warms up, ice again. According to Ingraham, if icing doesn’t seem to be decreasing inflammation within three to five days, it’s unlikely it will work.
While the experts disagree, this debate simply raises our awareness that we always need to revisit our assumptions and stay current with breaking research to ensure clients are always receiving the very best treatments and therapies. For more information, contact a WorkWell expert.