Avoid Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE)

Experts have long suggested treating injuries with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). These aim to limit inflammation and swelling, perhaps under the assumption that the body overdoes its response or that pain is always bad and we should do something about it. While rest may help at first, the other treatments and even rest after some time can delay healing at best and lead to a permanently weaker structure at worst. They disrupt the natural process your body uses to respond to injury, with the swelling, discomfort, and pain needed to produce the best result.


Cold therapy increases the pain threshold due to desensitizing the nerves. This may allow you to withstand more range of motion and exercise for the injured part. In the earliest stages of an injury though, you have to question why you should choose to ignore your body’s pain response.

Ice limits swelling and temporarily reduces blood flow. This lowers function and coordination for immediate activity, making it especially unwise during a sport.

More importantly, it can kill cells needed for healing. It at least delays a return to full function both in the short-term and the long run.

Compression and Elevation

Compression aims to reduce swelling. Elevation limits blood flow. Although both are not as severe as ice, they still interfere with the process just as coldness does.

Ignore RICE in Favor of Rest and Light Activity

One of these treatments alone can disrupt the process, but combine all three and you induce a big, unnatural interference.

These may feel good. You may also gain some satisfaction from taking action instead of letting your body alone pilot the course. The only thing that should matter though is the end result.

These steps may reduce pain but the pain serves a purpose.

In severe cases such as surgery and other catastrophic injuries, RICE may play a role. These go far beyond what the body would normally handle. For common injuries such as strains and sprains, let the body have its way.

Rest initially but resume some light activity as soon as possible. For muscular issues, this will prevent too much scar tissue from forming and improve blood flow to the area. Avoid heat and massage as they can lead to too much inflammation instead of a balance. Proceed back to full health at as fast of a rate as you can handle in good form on safe exercises. Avoid RICE and allow your body to recover as intended.

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