Dr. April Carpenter and her team of students challenge the “rest, ice, compression, elevate” approach to recovery

Photograph courtesy of Grizzly Staff

Jenna Severa

jesevera@ursinus.edu

Most people believe that they should ice and bandage their aching muscles, prop them up on a fluffy pillow, and rest to promote healing. The Skeletal Muscle Injury and Repair lab (SkM),  however, is challenging the traditional “rest, ice, compression, elevation” method of treating muscle injuries using unique research on how mice heal after muscle injury. Specifically, Health and Exercise Physiology (HEP) professor, Dr. April Carpenter, and her team of students are asking the question of whether this well-known method of treatment is the fastest, most efficient way of treating muscle injury.

Dr. Carpenter established the SkM Lab in Fall 2015. Her research focuses on the process of muscle regeneration. She noted, “There’s a reason for pain sometimes.”

Her ongoing study investigates how pain itself can be a signal for an immune response, calling specific cells to the injured area so that healing can promptly begin, and how this response regenerates muscle tissue in a timely matter. The researchers are studying mice to discover if the rest, ice, compression, and elevation method is preventing or slowing this immune response, thereby slowing down the whole healing process.

The idea that there could be a more efficient and swift way to treat muscle injury is astounding. Carpenter described such an advancement as “a big paradigm shift . . . [It] makes you think about how you approach your patients.”

Additionally, she believes that the research being done in the SkM Lab could change the way health and exercise medicine approaches treatment of muscular injuries and improves the healing process.

In addition to possibly transforming standard perspectives on muscle injury treatment, students participating in various labs through their HEP  courses are able to experience real-world applications of what they have learned in class. Sophomore Nicole Florio explained that the HEP labs allow students to physically engage with their studies. “[It helps students] think in a different way [and] visualize [concepts learned in the classroom.]”

Both tenets are important for undergraduates to be prepared for either the working world or an entrance to graduate school.

Florio also mentioned how HEP has deepened her understanding of the human body. “[It teaches] health in general . . . and [how to live] a good lifestyle,” she said.

The SkM lab not only allows students to visualize such concepts but also to take part in research that has the potential to change healthcare and sports medicine. By giving more insight into abstract theories in the classroom through hands-on experience, Ursinus HEP students are preparing themselves for success post-graduation with the skills they learn in the SkM lab.