RICE versus MEAT: What's best for injury recovery?

There’s a hot debate going on when it comes to injury recovery concerning the well-known method of RICE and the newer, lesser known method of MEAT . So let’s quickly go over what these are and then we can look at which is best and when.

RICE This has been the go-to injury recovery method for quite some time, but research is showing the limitation of RICE. So what does it include?

REST Resting an injured limb is crucial to recovery, but there’s a fine balance, which I’ll address later in the post.

ICE The use of ice in the acute stage of an injury has been a long standing treatment, but the research is actually lacking on this. While some studies suggest it may help in short term recovery for certain injuries, others suggest it may actually slow recovery.

COMPRESSION Applying compression, whether through a specialized sleeve or intricate wrap can help to decrease excess swelling.

ELEVATION Keeping the injured area elevated may help to decrease swelling, but it may also decrease circulation of blood which could slow down healing.

MEAT This method is making a move to replace the traditional RICE method as new studies have come out. MEAT includes a more science-based approach to long term recovery instead of the short-term RICE method which may do little more than make you feel better those first few hours after an injury. What does it include?

MOVEMENT Rest is important, but controlled movement of the affected limb can stimulate blood flow, allow for proper development of scar tissue, and improve recovery. Too many people rest an injury far too much which can lead to a serious decrease in range of motion and strength.

EXERCISE While this goes hand-in-hand with movement, specific exercise for the particular injury with the slow and strategic addition of resistance and/or weight can improve function and long-term outcome.

ANALGESIA Pain relievers should be reserved for acute injuries but NSAIDs should be avoided as they can actually inhibit the natural healing process.

TREATMENT This can include physical therapy, massage therapy, and any number of other bodywork and rehab techniques used to address specific injuries.

One of the biggest details that is often passed over, is that the need for either will vary depending on the exact injury and at what stage of recovery. Generally speaking, RICE may be best reserved for acute muscle injuries (within the first few hours) and MEAT may be best for acute ligament and cartilage injuries and aid in long-term recovery.

It’s important to mention that no studies have yet directly compared these methods to each other to come to a clear conclusion, but rather independent studies on each are leading us to make the distinction. It may be best to utilize components of both RICE and MEAT when you experience any kind of injury.


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