RICE versus METH – A new approach for healing soft tissue injuries

RICE versus METH – A new approach for healing soft tissue injuries

When you sprain, strain or injure a soft tissue structure, immediately most individuals apply the RICE acronym. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Recently, a Toronto-based trainer and exercise physiologist, John Paul Catanzaro, coined a new acronym to deal with soft tissue injuries – METH.

METH refers to Movement, Elevation, Traction and Heat. As a health professional, I find this method works extremely well for my patients who commonly seek treatment for ankle sprain/strains, hamstring pulls, lateral/medial epicondylitis (tennis/golfer’s elbow) and other soft tissue injuries.

Catanzaro, as well as several health practitioners, criticize the icing method and believe that ICE will slow down blood circulation and thus the healing process. I agree. Ice is great at removing immediate pain and swelling following an injury, however, it will also constrict blood flow. This constriction in blood flow may limit the flushing of inflammation out of the injured region, thus, creating more pain and making healing time longer.  Applying moist heat (I do this for around 5-10 minutes at a time) can be found to do the opposite – it increases circulation and healing times.

Elevation, our second word in the METH acronym, is said to assist with moving blood from the limb to the heart. By elevating a limb above the heart, we allow gravity to bring blood back to the heart/lungs. This assists in flushing swelling/inflammation out from the area.  Compression, part of the RICE method, is also meant to reduce swelling in the area.

Movement and traction are very similar in the METH approach. Both focus on the importance of moving the injured soft tissue area frequently but with caution. Avoid keeping the area still or resting for too long (I would say for over 30 minutes). Remember, movement will assist in preventing stiffness, pain, as well as swelling, however, do this with caution!

All in all, I still believe that a balance between the RICE and METH methods are important depending on the severity of the injury, region injured, and duration/time lapse following the injury. For instance, ice can assist in decreasing pain and maybe necessary if anti-inflammatories or painkillers are not assisting.  The bottom line is that we need to be open-minded in our approach to treating soft tissue injuries.  What works for one person, may not work well for someone else. Next time you think RICE, consider the METH method for treating that acute soft tissue injury.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The following information is intended for informational purposes only. Consult a health practitioner to help you diagnose and treat injuries of any kind.

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Dr. Luciano Di Loreto