R.I.C.E., recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, is a treatment protocol for dealing with minor injuries to soft tissues, such as strains, sprains, and pulled muscles, and it can also help with mild joint aches. The acronym R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Many people mistakenly think that, when they hurt themselves, applying ice alone is enough, neglecting the other components that could help them heal faster.
Following these tips can encourage the speedy recovery of a minor injury that does not require further medical attention. Someone with a serious injury should always seek professional medical advice. In the meantime, the R.I.C.E. technique is easy to remember and is useful for providing some immediate pain relief.
If you can, stop moving the injured body part right away and find a comfortable position that will allow you to avoid using it and ensure proper healing. Along with potentially causing additional tissue inflammation and pain, you risk further damage to the hurt muscle or ligament by not resting the affected body part immediately.
Applying cold to the injured area helps to avoid swelling and can reduce soreness. Use an ice pack or, if one is not available, a bag of frozen vegetables will work just as well. Place a towel or a cloth between the ice pack and your skin to avoid irritation or frostbite. If possible, use something flexible that will conform to the injured area for maximum effectiveness. Apply the cold pack for approximately 20 minutes and then keep it off for at least 40 minutes. If you begin to feel numbness or pain due to the ice, remove it and wait at least 15 minutes before applying it again. Repeat the process for no more than 24 to 48 hours. Extending the treatment for more days can turn harmful and might even delay the healing process.
Combined with an ice pack, an elastic bandage can help reduce swelling. While you should wrap the area tightly, do not restrict the blood flow by making the bandage too tight. Pain or tingling in the area means that you should re-wrap the bandage a bit looser. When you are finished putting ice on the injury, keep the area wrapped with the bandage to minimize swelling.
Raising or propping up the injured area is also important for keeping swelling to a minimum. By raising it above your chest level, you can help drain the blood and fluid, preventing it from collecting in the injured tissue. Although occasionally moving around is recommended to speed the healing process, remember to elevate your injury whenever you are sitting or lying down. Pillows and cushions are useful for propping up an arm or leg as needed.
After 24 to 48 hours of using the R.I.C.E. technique, you can try applying heat pack rather than ice to the injured area to relieve mild pain. You can also begin gently stretching or massaging your muscles to improve flexibility. However, you should consult a doctor if you continuously experience serious discomfort. A major injury such as a broken bone requires immediate medical attention.