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Let’s Use Heat Instead of Ice

R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation and is a method for caring for injuries. Most people have probably used this method or at least used ice for an injury. The RICE method was coined in 1978 and has been the gold standard for acute musculoskeletal injuries. Many people, including some healthcare providers, continue to use this method but those who are keeping up with current research know that this method has become outdated. Ice can actually prevent and prolong healing. After an injury, inflammation and increased circulation occur to start the healing process causing swelling. Inflammation has been given a bad connotation but inflammation is a good thing and we need it for our body to heal. Inflammation can become bad when it is excessive or chronic but is a normal part of the healing process. Ice is actually reducing the inflammation and can therefore slow down the healing process. A better option is to actually use heat and movement to assist the healing process and not slow it down. Heat will increase circulation and not restrict the healing process. Ice may still be useful immediately after an injury for a few days to alleviate pain but once the pain is tolerable a transition to heat and proper movement should be made. Frequently, I recommend to my patients to use a heating pad or a hot bath. I also give them simple exercises to promote movement that will help reduce pain and stiffness to get them back to living their lives.

Mason Porter, PT, DPT

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