All around the world, the typical advice for a simple ankle sprain is basically wrong! After an joint injury, the treatment should be MEAT (Movement, Exercise, Analgesics, and Treatment) versus RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.) RICE treatments actually prevent full healing instead of assisting the body to heal!
It’s important to remember that ligament injuries cannot be treated the same as muscle injuries. Muscles are very vascular structures, beefy and red; whereas the white structures of the body, including the tendons, ligaments, menisci, labrum and articular cartilage, have little or no blood supply. The RICE treatment decreases blood flow further, and leads to incomplete healing of soft tissue, whereas MEAT encourages complete healing. Muscles can undergo the RICE treatments and feel immediately better and avoid compromised healing because of the large influx of healing cells available, despite the non-healing aspects of the RICE protocol. The white structures are not so lucky and research has shown that the RICE protocol inhibits healing.
The RICE treatment is often administered to athletes after badly spraining an ankle, tearing the meniscus in the knee, or sustaining some other type of sports injury. Athletes can be seen with ice packs taped to the injured joint. But realize that the inflammation resulting after these injuries is nature’s attempt to heal the injuries as quickly as possible. Using RICE treatments eliminate this chemistry, even though they may offer short-term pain relief.
The MEAT protocol, including regenerative injection treatments for more severe injuries, stimulates the repair of the soft tissue structures that are causing the joint instability. Realize that even the creator of the RICE protocol, Gabe Mirkin, MD, has stated that inflammation is necessary for healing and that RICE can delay healing. What does the body want to do after an injury? Heal, of course.