Does Ice Speed Post-Exercise Healing?

The RICE principle— rest, ice, compression and elevation— has been the cornerstone of athletic injury management for the past 40 years. A study by scientists from Taiwan and the opinions of several leading orthopedic specialists have cast doubt on this treatment method. The Taiwanese study induced muscle damage using eccentric muscle contractions of the elbow extensors, and then applied ice for 15 minutes at zero, three, 24, 48 and 72 hours after exercise. Compared to a control group, post-exercise icing caused greater fatigue and soreness. Ice had no effect on immune system function. Before we toss out the baby with the ice water, this was a small study that used an isolated muscle group. Also, there were no differences in strength between the ice and control groups. A built-in bias in the study is the difficulty of finding a true control group for ice. We need more research before we take the “I” out of RICE. (Journal Strength Conditioning Research, 27:1354-1361, 2013)

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