Sports Acupuncture Blog

End of the R.I.C.E. Age

In 1978, Gabe Mirkin coined the acronym R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) in his best-seller Sports Medicine Cyclistbook as a treatment for athletic injuries. Ice has even been   the standard treatment for injuries and sore muscles to relieve the pain caused by impaired tissues, and it was only further popularized by Mirkin.

Findings from recent studies however, propose the opposite. A study conducted by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2013 required the athletes to exercise so intensely that they develop serious muscle injury resulting in extensive muscle soreness. Ice was use as the healing agent; it was found that, although the cooling effect delayed swelling, there was no evidence to the fact that ice compression hastened healing.

A noted study presented in the British Journal of Sports Medicine 2012 suggested that the efficacy of ice is more tepid than many might think. “Ice is commonly used after acute muscle strains, but there are no clinical studies of its effectiveness.” Another research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2013 suggests that, “topical cooling or icing doesn’t improve but rather delays recovery”.

Whenever the body suffers trauma or tissue damage, the body tries to heal itself using immunity. This process is termed as inflammation. The release of the inflammatory cells, the macrophages discharges, hormones known for their Insulin-like growth (IGF-1) affect, helps promote healing in the damaged tissue. However, applying ice to the injured area prevents the body from discharging IGF-1.


Essentially, ice prevents the healing cells from entering the injured tissues by causing the blood vessels near the injury spot to shut off. It takes hours for these vessels to open up again. This deceased blood flow may result in permanent nerve damage as it causes the tissue to die.

The same research also suggested that anything that reduced inflammation delayed the healing process. This means that healing can be delayed by all pain-relieving medicines, immune suppressants, cortisone-type drugs, and cold packs or ice application.

Ice treatment also led to a reduction in the speed, strength and endurance level of the injured athletes. Although the cooling decreased the overwhelming pain, at the same time, it interfered with the strength, coordination and speed of the individual. After using cooling compression for 20 minutes, a sudden decrease in the performance of the athletes was reported. Athletes required a short re-warming period to regain their agility-based strength, speed and coordination.

Once after all the researches came into light, Gabe Mirkin apologized for giving rise to the misconception and made the following recommendations:

  • Stop exercising immediately if your have been injured.
  • If the pain persists and you are unable to move, seek emergency attention.
  • Elevate the injured part to minimize swelling.
  • Determine that no bones have been broken and ensure movement will not cause further damage.
  • Apply compression bandage if the injury is limited to soft tissue or muscle


Acupuncture on the other hand, is a much viable option for sports recovery and injuries, with proven effectiveness. Many renowned athletes and sportsmen such as Tony Richardson, NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Olympic high-jumper Amy Acuff, all use acupuncture to alleviate pain and sore muscles.

For more information and consultation on sports medicine, injury recovery, and acupuncture, come and visit me. I am an acupuncturist working in Denver who specializes in sports medicine.

Sports Acupuncture for Back Pain

Acupuncture Doll Athletes with international renown like NBA superstars Tony Richardson, Kobe Bryant, Mickael Pietrus, Olympic Medalist DeeDee Trotter, and others have successfully used acupuncture to relieve their bodies of pain.

Nearly 80% of the American population has back pain. Back pain usually begin as dull ache in the back but can  ultimately become chronic and hard to endure.  Using Sports Acupuncture for Back Pain can be an effective way to eliminate it.

Because of the fact that these athletes require hardcore exercise to keep their bodies fit and running, they are usually the ones most prone to back pain (lumbar). Be it skiing, world running championships, professional swimming Olympiads, tennis, or physical training, their bodies undergo a lot of strain and pressure which if not treated on time, becomes chronic and unbearable. Nearly 5% to 10% of all sports related injuries start with a simple back pain.  Using Sports Acupuncture for Back Pain can keep these injuries from becoming chronic.

Athletes are often reluctant in seeking medical help as they fear it may result in their careers ending. But is it really worth it? Due to the fears of never being able to play again, lose the championship title, or something similar, most of world class athletes continue to endure pain – what they don’t factor in is the fact that leaving the issue untreated will only cause more damage to the spinal cord and bones, eventually leading to greater injuries.

Sports Acupuncture for Back Pain

It is often stressed that exercise helps relieve back pain, but how can someone exercise more when he/she cannot even kneel down to untie their shoe laces? This is why physicians today suggest sports acupuncture for back pain.

Simply put, acupuncture works by inserting sterile thin needles in the back to stimulate circulation to the muscles and surrounding tissues. Many theories suggest that it can play a key role in relieving back pain for athletes. It is a safe, non-invasive way to alleviate the pain and speed up the recovery process.


Back Acupuncture

How does it work?

Speeds up electromagnetic signals: Acupuncture releases endorphins, essentially pain-killing chemicals, or releases immune system cells to ease the pain in the lower back, spinal cord and muscles.

Natural opioids release: They trigger the release of opioids in the body. These chemicals in the brain are known to lessen the pain and promote a more restful sleep.

Acupuncture treats back pain by altering neurotransmitters and neurohormones: The function of neurotransmitters changes the brain chemistry by either stimulating or reducing nerve impulses, whereas the release of neurohormones effects the functioning of an organ resulting in relaxation and a pain-free back.

Reduces recovery times: One of the most notable benefits of acupuncture is that it speeds up the recovery process. Any soreness or pain can easily be lowered, especially back pain, after intensive workout sessions.

For any acupuncture therapy to have the desired effect, you need to make sure you are going to a professional acupuncturist who specializes and is well-versed in dealing with sports injuries and recovery. I have been working as a specialist for more than a decade now. For the best sports acupuncture services relating sports injuries and recovery, contact me in Denver.