M.E.A.T. not R.I.C.E.
Don’t worry, we haven’t turned into complete carnivores, this post has nothing to do with food or diet, it is all about injury recovery. We all hear conflicting advice when we’re injured, “make sure you rest”, “use ice”, “use heat”, “wear a bandage”, “raise your foot”, “do this exercise”, “take ant-inflammatories”……..Arrrrgggghhhhh, information overload!!
Recent research has changed our perspective on injury management and when I sprained my ankle badly returning to Netball last September I decided to heed this new advice and go against a few of my instincts. I only iced it on day 1 because it hurt like hell and the ice had an analgesic effect. I didn’t take any ibuprofen (anti-inflammatories) and I didn’t keep still, wear a compression bandage or raise my foot all day. The old method of R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is seen by many as outdated. It does still have a place for some injuries, especially muscle damage but it seems everyone uses ice or heat for any ailment or injury hoping it’s doing some good. Ice constricts blood vessels reducing blood flow and thus in theory reducing the body’s ability to heal as all the cells needed are transported by the blood to the injured tissue. Tendons and ligaments have a poor blood supply, so reducing it further by applying ice is said to impede the healing.
So far, so good. I only had one week off work, I was hobbling about walking the dogs by week 2 and I’m back on the Netball court even winning man of the match last week – Result! (I have chosen to wear ankle supports to prevent another sprain but only as a precaution as Netball is tough on the ankles and ligaments are notoriously weak following a nasty sprain).
The method of recovery I used was M.E.A.T. Movement, Exercise, (natural) Analgesics and Treatment from a trusted professional. Injuries are all different and can include muscle, ligaments, tendons, fascia, even open wounds, so no method is the same and that’s why we customise our rehabilitation plans to each individual case. For my injury, a sprained ankle involving ligament damage, swelling, and tissue damage due to the trauma of landing on my opposition’s foot and ‘rolling’ my ankle as I fell over, I needed to ensure the ligaments, that have a limited blood supply unlike muscle tissue, healed quickly.
Primarily get a professional opinion – GP/A&E/Osteopath/Sports therapist. This could ensure there are no breaks or fractures. Then follow good advice on the following;
Let’s break it down;
Movement 
Controlled, primarily non-weight bearing, to maintain your range of movement, prevent shortening of muscle groups and increase blood flow to the area which will speed up healing. For example I would lie down with my calf on a pillow and try and draw the alphabet with my toes, moving my ankle in all directions – this was uncomfortable but shouldn’t be excruciatingly painful.
Exercise 
Controlled and prescribed exercises that might be uncomfortable, not too painful and are also progressive to improve flexibility and strength. I started mobilisation exercises, then walking, yoga and balance exercises followed by strength exercises to ensure I was ready to get back on court.
Analgesics
It is not recommended to take Ibuprofen (anti inflammatory medication) as this is believed to hinder the healing process. Inflammation is a key response to tissue damage and repair. I did take a few paracetamol but other natural analgesics include turmeric or bromelain supplements found in pineapple.
Treatment
See a competent physical therapist, Osteopath or Sports Therapist that can not only assist with hands-on treatment and prescribe the right exercises, but we also do taping if needed and passive mobilisation of joints to ensure you return to your full range of movement if possible. We also listen, reassure and console you on your frustration at being injured, it’s horrible being injured and missing your favourite activity, so here at Ebrook we try and offer a friendly,understanding approach. If you have a new or old injury that is hindering you, get in touch!
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