R.I.C.E. Verses M.E.A.T. The New Age debate
What are R.I.C.E. and M.E.A.T., and why are they both used as sprain treatments in First Aid?
Let’s start with the easier question of what is a sprain? A sprain is what we call a soft tissue injury resulting from some form of twisting of the joint where the injury occurred. The sprain can be mild and classed as a sprain or a strain and have little to no pain or swelling. The doctor may suggest R.I.C.E and pain relief in the form of Ibuprofen Advil, Motrin or Paracetamol.
Ankle sprains can be more serious and develop significant swelling and heavy bruising. A severe sprain with heavy swelling could include ruptured and torn ligaments or possibly a broken foot or ankle. Your doctor may recommend having a magnetic resonance imaging M.R.I. scan followed up with physical therapy sessions.
R.I.C.E. is an acronym and stands for:
The R.I.C.E. Treatment Method For Sprains
If you have ever sprained your ankle or wrist, you were likely told by the person treating your sprain they would use the R.I.C.E. method of sprain treatment. Rest the limb, ice it for 20 minutes, and wrap it in an elastic bandage to compress and stabilise the injury site and then elevate it on a pillow.
The first element of R.I.C.E. is REST.
Keep the injured site still to encourage healing and assist the fibrin bond. Fibrin is a protein used in homeostasis, the process where the blood clots to prevent free-flow and heal an injury. By resting the injury site, you avoid exacerbating the damage and allow healing.
I.C.E. is the next step. Application of cold temperatures for 20 minutes in the form of ice packs, frozen peas and ice sprays in a can are often used to reduce pain, limit bleeding, and reduce swelling.
COMPRESSION in the form of elastic bandaging of the area is used to reduce swelling and prevent haemorrhaging. By applying compression to an area, you effectively immobilise and give support to the weakened injury.
ELEVATION of the injured area decreases the pressure in the surrounding blood vessels. Decreased pressure limits bleeding into the ruptured tissues and reduces the ability of the injured site to swell unnecessarily.
What Is The M.E.A.T. Treatment Method For Sprains?
The main principle of the M.E.A.T. method focuses on movement in and of the injured area. M.E.A.T. is directly oppositional to the R.I.C.E. treatment method and is still considered controversial. An evolving alternative practice to R.I.C.E. M.E.A.T. is being used and trialled to promote the rapid healing of injured sports stars and athletes.
M.E.A.T. is a new-age way of treating acute injuries and proffers the importance of maintaining a range of motion and strength in the injured joints.
MOVEMENT. This theory argues that a person should begin movement of the injured area as soon as possible. Rest can be a necessary step, but M.E.A.T. suggests finding a gentle movement routine without exceeding the individual’s pain tolerance level. The theory is that movement will put a small load on the ligament and tissues, helping the new tissue grow back in the right way for functionality and form.
R.I.C.E. is about preventing swelling; however, swelling naturally occurs when tissue has been ruptured and provides the new blood filled with the required nutrients to flood the injury and aid in repair.
EXERCISE encourages blood flow, flushes out lymph, blood, and dead tissue debris, and brings in new oxygen-rich blood to heal the area. It must be stressed that the M.E.A.T. theory suggests moving on to the next step, which is exercise, only when the pain has significantly decreased or ceased entirely. In this step, careful movement is increased until there is a return to the regular exercise routine.
ANALGESICS, the third principle in M.E.A.T., is used to control pain during healing. Analgesics refers to any type of painkiller, be it prescription or natural.
TREATMENT consists of and combines all the above.
Both options are viable treatment options and will depend on the severity of the injury and the advice of the treating medical practitioner. However, R.I.C.E. is still the preferred treatment method for any sprain in the initial 24 hours of receiving the injury.
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