The debate between RICE and MEAT for injury recovery isn't about diet but methods. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) was traditional, but MEAT (Movement, Exercise, Analgesia, Treatment) offers a science-based, long-term approach. Each has its place depending on the injury's nature and stage. Combining elements of both methods may be the best approach.

RICE vs MEAT for injuries

And no, we’re not talking about vegetarians versus carnivores. There’s a hot debate about injury recovery concerning the well-known method of RICE and the newer, lesser-known method of MEAT. So let’s quickly go over these, and then we can look at which is best and when.


This has been the go-to injury recovery method for quite some time, but research shows RICE’s limitations. So what does it include?


Resting an injured limb is crucial to recovery, but there’s a delicate balance, which I’ll address later in the post.


The use of ice in the acute stage of an injury has been a long-standing treatment, but the research is actually lacking on this. While some studies suggest it may help in short-term recovery for several types of injuries, others suggest it may slow healing.


Applying compression, whether through a specialized sleeve or intricate wrap, can help to decrease excess swelling.


Keeping the injured area elevated may help decrease swelling, but it may also reduce blood circulation, which could slow down healing.


This method is moving to replace the traditional RICE method as new studies have come out. MEAT includes a more science-based approach to long-term recovery instead of the short-term RICE method, which may do little more than make you feel better those first few hours after an injury. What does it include?


Rest is essential, but controlled movement of the affected limb can stimulate blood flow, allow for proper development of scar tissue, and improve recovery. Too many people rest an injury far too much, which can lead to a serious decrease in range of motion and strength.


While this goes hand-in-hand with movement, specific exercise for the particular injury with the slow and strategic addition of resistance/weight can improve function and long-term outcome.


Pain relievers should be reserved for acute injuries, but NSAIDs should be avoided as they can potentially inhibit the natural healing process.


This can include physical therapy, massage therapy, and any number of other bodywork and rehab techniques used to address specific injuries.

One of the most important details that are often passed over is that the need for either will vary depending on the injury and at what stage of recovery. Generally speaking, RICE may be best reserved for acute muscle injuries (within the first few hours), and MEAT may be best for acute ligament and cartilage injuries and aid long-term recovery.

It’s important to mention that no studies have directly compared these methods to each other to come to a clear conclusion, but rather independent studies on each lead us to make the distinction. It may be best to utilize components of both RICE and MEAT when you experience any kind of injury.

And always remember, call on your favorite friendly neighborhood massage therapists when you are ready to get on the road to recovery!

In good hands,

Rebecca Tamm, LMT

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