Is RICE or MEAT Right for My Injury?

Don't Let A Strain or Sprain Ruin Your Summer!

Hanna Kim

Is RICE or MEAT Right for My Injury?


With more people out and about playing under the Colorado sun, it seems there’s also been an uptick in injuries. Fortunately, not all injuries are severe, but something like a first-degree sprain can still lead to the pain and discomfort that stops you from having fun.


The care you take after an injury plays a big role in how you recover. Like any other science, sports medicine has seen changes over the years, and more recent research is showing that a popular at-home treatment method, RICE, may be outdated, and for good reasons.


What is RICE?


You’ve  probably come across RICE at some point in your life. Dr. Gabe Mirkin coined the term in 1978 as a treatment protocol for athletic injuries, and it quickly rose to be the standard because it is effective in relieving pain caused by injured tissue.


RICE relieves pain, but it also reduces our body’s inflammatory reaction, which is our bodies’ natural response to an injury. Our immune system sends inflammatory cells to damaged tissue to rebuild after the injury. Below, you can see how RICE reduces inflammation, and thereby inhibits the healing process.


REST – Completely rest, especially for long periods of time, can slow recovery time after an injury. Continue reading to find out why movement might be a better alternative.  


ICE – Ice causes vasoconstriction, or the decrease of blood flow, which inhibits inflammation. A review in the Journal of Athletic Training found a lack of evidence that rest and ice helps with the actual treatment of soft tissue injury. Dr. Mirkin says you can still apply ice to an injury for pain relief, but for no longer than 10 minutes at a time, with a 20 minute break in between.


COMPRESSION – When joints and muscles are immobilized, we are no longer using them correctly and potentially reinforcing a new dysfunctional pattern. Blood flow that would otherwise bring the cellular materials necessary to repair damaged tissue are also restricted.


ELEVATION - There is not as much evidence for or against elevation of an injury. However, think of how stiff you get from staying in one position; for example, having to keep your leg propped up above heart level after an ankle sprain.


Dr. Mirkin has since recanted his view on the efficacy of RICE and you can now see why it may not be the best treatment method. As always, if you get injured, immediately stop your activity and get the proper medical attention you need.


What is MEAT?


MEAT is a newer mnemonic device you might want to think about using for future injuries. You may notice MEAT seems to be the opposite of RICE.


MOVEMENT – You want to mobilize the muscle or joint as soon after the injury as possible, but without increasing pain. Early movement stimulates blood flow and helps reduce the formation of poorly aligned scar tissue. A 2004 review in the Journal of Family Practice showed early mobilization has benefits, including earlier return to work, decreased pain, swelling, and stiffness, and an ability to maintain greater range of joint motion.


EXCERISE – Once you start feeling better, you can ease back into your exercise or sport. Start slow, and listen to your body and your doctor.


ANALGESICS – Instead of anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone and ibuprofen, and ice, try natural pain relievers such as arnica or CBD’s.


TREATMENTS – Additional treatments such as massage and physical therapy can help you get back into tip-top shape.

*MEAT is paleo, vegan, and gluten free!




Once your injury is past the acute healing stage, getting a massage is a fantastic way to reduce your recovery time. Massage increases local blood flow and relaxes tight muscles. It also helps break up scar tissue limiting range of movement.


Especially with severe injuries, we recommend getting cleared by your doctor before coming in for a session.


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