What is the R.I.C.E method for treating injuries?
Pain and swelling is the body’s way of telling you that something has gone wrong. You can help your body heal and keep things from getting worse, if you know what to do. The most basic injuries require equally basic remedies. These minor and basic types of weight lifting injuries (sports injuries in general) don’t require a trip to the emergency room, and they may not even require a trip to the doctor if you’ve experienced something similar in the past and know the right steps to lake. The most commonly recommended initial treatment for soft tissue injuries is the RICE protocol—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Various medical advice websites recommend using RICE method for many types of injuries, including tendinitis, ligament sprains, muscle strains, and some of the other types of injuries we explored in the previous posts.
What is the RICE method?
The RICE method is the basic principle to apply in the case of minor injury. The sooner the athlete reacts, the better the recovery will be.
The acronym stands for the four things you can do to improve your injury and continue on the road to healing:
- R – rest,
- I – ice,
- C – compression, and
- E – elevation.
This protocol can be used in the case of minor injuries to ease the pain and tenderness and shorten the time needed to recover.
What is the purpose of the RICE method/protocol?
The purpose of the RICE protocol is to relieve the swelling and pain in the injured area and to give the injury time to heal. All of us have been injured at some point and were probably told to “put ice on it” or “elevate it” or “take an anti-inflammatory medication.” If you have a muscle strain and no damage to the surrounding or connected tissues, these steps may work just fine. But if you are dealing with a cartilage, tendon, or ligament injury, RICE could prevent you from healing fully.
What does rest mean? Generally, it means to stop doing what you were doing when you got injured. In other words, stop using the injured area immediately. A sore sensation never has to be overlooked because it is the body’s way of saying “stop.”
If you’ve got an ankle that’s black and blue and swelling up like a basketball, then don’t walk on it. Protect it with crutches or a cane. If it’s just a minor sprain, you’ll want to move it a little, to put some weight on it to see how it feels. In general, your body will “splint” an injury, making it as immobile as it’s supposed to be. Try to move any joint that’s injured. If you can’t move it, or if the pain is unbearable, then your body is telling you to leave it alone and hurry to the doctor.
It is a sign which has to be taken into account. It is the sign which tells you clearly that the injured part needs some rest. Allow the injury time to recover. Too much too soon will cause further damage and increase the recovery time.
Avoid any weight-bearing activities (i.e. walking) and use crutches if the injury is to the lower body. If no crutches are available, ask someone to help you to move to an appropriate location.
Why ice? Applying ice packs can help to stop or reduce internal bleeding of the injured area. Internal bleeding is due to blood vessels such as capillaries being damaged. The cold from the ice helps these small vessels to constrict, resulting in the reduction of blood flow. This stops the blood collecting around the injured site. Ice should be applied from the time of the injury – on for 10-15 minutes, off for 10-15 minutes – every waking hour for the first 24 to 48 hours. Duration of ice therapy depends on the severity of the injury and how quickly the swelling dies down.
Some useful tips when applying ice:
- Place crushed ice or ice cubes in a plastic bag, a wet towel, or an ice bag to make an ice pack.
- Never place ice and ice packs directly on to the skin – this can cause ice burns (frostbite by freezing the surface of the skin.
- Use iced water in a bucket for small injuries (toes, fingers). Use ice packs for injuries to larger areas of the body.
- Leave the ice pack on the injury for approximately 10-15 minutes. Check the skin after one minute, to feel how cold it is. Ice application should not be painful or burning.
- Allow the area to regain some heat for 15 minutes and then reapply the ice pack. Continue with this process for up to three hours after the injury has happened.
- If pain and swelling continues, find a medical professional.
- If using reusable cold packs, these will need to be continually rotated as they warm up. Disposable cold packs are activated when squeezed but cannot he used again.
Why compression? After icing the injured part of the body, it is recommended to bandage the area. Compression reduces the amount of swelling around an injured area. Fluid from neighbouring areas can bleed into the injured area, delaying the recovery of the damaged tissues.Furthermore, it provides support and immobilization.
To compress the injured area:
- Use elasticated bandages, or wrap the area with a cloth. Wrapping should be firm and include the ice pack if possible.
- Remove the wrapping immediately if the area becomes blue in color, or the injured person experiences a feeling of pain, numbness or cramps. These are signs of a reduction of blood to the area, and this will also hinder recovery.
- If you’re wrapping a leg or arm, start at the place farthest from the heart, and work towards it in a crisscross pattern. Expose toes or fingers at the extremities so you can spot any skin discolorations. Your fingertip must neither get colder nor change color. You should also maintain finger in a straight position.
- In some cases, it’s fairly easy to apply pressure to the area around the injury. For example if you’ve sprained your ankle, don’t remove your shoe right away. The compression provided by your shoe will help keep the swelling down until you can locate an ice pack.
Why elevation? Keeping the injured body part elevated above your heart will help reduce pain and swelling by keeping the fluids from building up in your injury. Elevating the affected limb also improves venous return. Therefore keep the injured limb elevated for the first 24 hours.
You can use pillows or solid objects to support the injured part. Make sure that the arrangement is comfortable to the injured person.
The P.R.I.C.E. and R.I.C.E.S. Protocol Principles
Several acronyms have been developed since the original RICE, including PRICE (P for “protection”) and RICES (S for “stabilization”). These added components have the common theme of preventing further injury by avoiding harmful activity or undue stresses accompanied by the use of braces, wraps, or splints for support. Regardless of the acronym used, the goals is to reduce swelling and inflammation, prevent further injury, and return to functional activities as soon as possible.
Closing thoughts: RICE method
Sporting activity can put great demands on the body. At times the body is unable to cope and injury results. Some injuries require hospital treatment. Many injuries however are minor and do not require medical treatment. Therefore, non-drug treatment plays a vital and major role in the treatment of soft tissue injuries. Standard advice follows the acronym RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
RICE method is the strategy for treating a muscle or joint injury, by not putting any further pressure on it, applying an ice pack, wrapping an elastic bandage to control tissue swelling, and elevating the injured part to drain excess. This method is quite simple, cheap and non-invasive. It can improve the patient’s outcome mainly by improving vascular flow. From all of the above components, ice the perhaps the most important one. Ice is essential to treat many injuries because you use it to decrease the swelling of a bruise, after pulling or straining a muscle, spraining, or sometimes after breaking the bone.