RICE – Not Just for Eating!

RICE is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. RICE can relieve pain, limit swelling and protect injured tissue – all of which help speed the healing process for sports related injuries. Let’s take a closer look at how to implement the RICE procedure.

resting on couch

RestRest is an integral part of the injury rehabilitation process for two reasons. First, rest protects the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or other soft tissue from further injury. Second, a rested limb has the energy necessary to heal itself most effectively.

bags of ice

Ice:  Use ice packs, bags of ice, or bags of frozen vegetables wrapped in a thin towel. Make sure the towel isn’t too thick so the treatment will be the more effective. Cold brings short-term pain relief and reduces swelling by constricting the blood vessels and in turn, blood-flow into the area. NEVER LEAVE ICE ON AN INJURY FOR MORE THAN 20 MINUTES. Long-term exposure to cold can cause damage to your skin. The best rule is to ice 15 minutes, remove for 15-20 minutes, and then repeat the treatment. Following treatment, vasodilatation occurs – meaning, the blood vessels expand and bring much-needed nutrients to the area.

Compression:  Compression is another way to curb swelling. This is important, as swelling impedes the healing process. Compression also reduces pain in some cases. The best way to compress an injury is to wrap it with an ace bandage. I advise wrapping an ice pack under the bandage when the injury first occurs. If you feel throbbing, rewrap the area with slightly less tension on the ace bandage.

Elevation: Elevating the injury is an additional way to bring down swelling. Keep the elevation at the same level as your heart.

sports injury

After 48 hours, you should feel relief from your injury, and both the swelling and pain should be reduced.  In other words, the healing process has begun.  If not, see your physician or even go to the emergency room if you deem it necessary.  Once the swelling has subsided, try to gently stretch the area and slowly work the range of motion in the joint.  Also, moist heat may be helpful once the injury is out of the acute phase, and swelling and bleeding (internal or external) have subsided. This will increase the blood supply to the area and promote long-term healing. Only when your injury has healed can you begin to do strengthening exercises. Remember taking care of your injuries will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”



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