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RICE for Injuries

When we pull a muscle or strain a tendon the soft tissues in that area are damaged. Immediately following the injury, fibers of the muscle, tendon, or ligament affected become disturbed. Soon after a soft tissue injury, localized inflammation occurs. These damaged tissues become sore and tender, both from the trauma to them and from the swelling to follow. This leads to the stiffness, pain, and tenderness that often accompany the inflammation of tendinitis, bursitis, as well as strain/sprain injuries. You can reduce discomfort while promoting healing and flexibility by utilizing the R.I.C.E method as soon as possible after an injury.

Rest: Decrease movement of the injured body part.

Rest is a key factor to repairing our body. Without rest, constant strain is placed on the affected area which can lead to increased inflammation, pain, and further damage. Rest and protect the injured or sore area. Halt, modify, or take a break from the activity that may be causing you pain or soreness.

Ice: Cold pack application.

Ice is outstanding at decreasing the inflammatory reaction and pain from heat caused by the injury. Apply an ice or cold pack immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. The correct way to apply ice is to crush it, place it in a plastic bag and then cover the bag with a towel. The crushed ice conforms freely to the shape of the injured body part. Apply the ice pack to the injured area for 10-20 minutes around 3 times a day. Exceeding the recommended time for ice application may be detrimental, as blood flow will be too reduced to allow proper nutrient delivery and waste removal. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat to the area that hurts. Place a towel over the cold or heat pack before applying it to the skin.

Icing usually causes stiffness to the local tissues, while heat applications relax muscles around the joints. Often it is best to use heat early in the day to relax tense muscles, while ice applications at the end of the day can minimize the inflammation resulting from the daily activities.

Compression: Apply a light pressure wrap to the affected body part.

Compression aims to reduce the swelling that results from the progression of inflammation. Although some swelling is unavoidable, too much swelling results in substantial loss of function, undue pain and eventual slowing of blood flow. The fit should be snug so as to not move freely, but still allow expansion for when muscles contract and fill with blood.

Wrap the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap); this will help reduce swelling. Do not wrap it too tightly, since this can cause more swelling below the injured area. Slacken the bandage if it gets too tight, the wrap is too tight if you experience numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. If you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours talk to a health professional like your primary care doctor, a more serious problem may be present.

Elevation: Raise the injured body part above the heart.

Raise the injured body part up above your heart so that the pressure from the blood and tissue swelling on the affected area is reduced and blood won’t pool in the injured area. Elevation aims to minimize swelling by reducing circulation to the injury.
This can be helpful for many forms of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and osteoarthritis. RICE is considered a first-aid treatment, rather than a cure for soft tissue injuries. The goal is to manage pain, swelling, and internal bleeding.