No matter what sport you enjoy, you’re bound to endure some type of pain from either training, competing or participating.  Just as the old saying goes, “you never get out of this world alive,”, the same holds true for sports. “You never get out of a sport without some type of injury.”  It might be an accident or just plain overuse – your body will be affected by some type of pain.  

As it’s been for nearly a half century, the most famous remedy in sports medicine, from trainers to physicians to parents – treat your pain or injury with “RICE”- the acronym for rest, ice, compression and elevation. 

Legendary sports physician, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, created The RICE Method in his 1978 bestseller, The Sportsmedicine Book.  This treatment method for sports injuries has become the gold standard for over 40 years and has allowed the wounded warriors of the world not only endure, but rehab to get back in the game.  

Twist your ankle, strain your knee, pull a muscle in your back, partially tear a rotator cuff or AC joint., or suffer a contusion to the thigh or other soft tissue bruising during a game, competition or training?  The go-to method is “RICE.” Those ice machines in the hotels around the world – they’re not just for cocktails! Wish I had a nickel for every time I had to ask the front desk for a bag so I can get ice for some type of injury.  A home it might even be a bag of frozen peas! In any event, it helps reduce both pain and swelling – which sends us down the road to recovery – or is it?



“Nearly everyone who ices today,” says veteran athletic trainer Gary Reinl, “believes they’re doing it to prevent inflammation, reduce swelling, and control pain.  But here’s the problem: Icing doesn’t prevent inflammation or swelling; it only delays it. Once tissues rewarm, the inflammatory process resumes and your body’s innate intelligence sends the correct amount of fluid to the damage site.  Although icing can provide temporary pain relief, numbing just shuts off protective signals that alert you to harmful movement. And the Journal of Athletic Medicine Research recently showed that icing actually kills muscle cells.”  

Additional research has confirmed Reinl’s suspicions.  A report in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research discovered that icing fails to help injuries heal, and may well delay recovery from injury. Additional research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found evidence that icing sore muscles may be detrimental to recovery.  And, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have even identified a likely reason: Icing an injury delays the release of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1), a key hormone unleashed by immune cells to repair damaged tissues.

“Icing just doesn’t work—it actually screws things up,” says Reinl, whose new book, Iced! The Illusionary Treatment Option, is dedicated to encouraging doctors and athletes to move out of the ice age.

Even Dr. Mirkin, who invented RICE agrees with Reinl and the subsequent research.  “I do not believe in cooling anymore, nor the “R” component of his famous prescription.  And research now shows that both ice and prolonged rest actually delay recovery.”


A growing list of sports medicine specialists are promoting natural healing via multiple modalities.  

 “The human body is absolutely remarkable,” says Dr. Nick DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon and former team physician for the Philadelphia 76ers.  “Most of the time it knows what it’s doing. I still believe there’s an occasional place in the medical bag for ice – for acute pain, for instance, it’s certainly preferable to Percocet or Vicodin.  But you really have to be mindful of what you’re trying to accomplish before you throw in the ice pack.”

Gary Reinl, for his part, believes the answer lies in a new acronym: ARITA – Active Rrecovery is the Answer.  Instead of reaching for the ice bag, let your pain level be your guide and keep on moving as much or as little as your mending body allows.  

Rebecca Kurtz, M.S., an exercise physiologist at Henry Ford Health System urges a balance of ice, movement and heat.  “While icy temperatures help reduce inflammation, heat helps dilate blood vessels and promotes blood flow,” Kurtz says. “If your muscle is spasming, heat is best.”  

To conclude, ice has its purpose and is essential for reducing swelling of any acute injury for the first 24-48 hours.  Beyond this time period, a combination of movement (based on pain thresholds and common sense), vibration to flush lactic acid from the muscle and heat to relax and promote blood flow will ensure proper recovery.  This is why we love the MyoStorm “Meteor” Ball.  The combination of heat and vibration is a game changer for any nursing an injury.  And of course, don’t forget to get good sleep, eat a healthy diet and rehydrate after your favorite activity.

Want to read more from Gary Miller, Olympic Alpine Ski Coach? Check out the Alpin Luxe blog:

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