Athletic training comes with the risk of sports injury. Even everyday activities come with the risk of injuries, too.
Fortunately, the easy R.I.C.E. method is a common tool for reducing pain and further damage to your injured joint.
We’ll guide you through the steps, benefits, and when you should and shouldn’t use the RICE first aid method.
Meaning of RICE in First Aid: What Does the Acronym Stand For?
RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation therapy.
It is best performed within the first 24 to 48 hours of the occurrence of soft tissue injuries. The entire procedure aims to relieve pain and shorten the recovery time of an injured joint.
The following are the details of each step of the R.I.C.E method:
Rest. It is the first thing you must do as soon as you notice an unusual pain or swelling.
You should avoid movements, more so weight-bearing activities. You must maintain this for at least the first 24 to 48 hours of the onset of pain. Use splints, braces, canes, or crutches if you think they’re necessary.
Continued use of your injured joint will only delay your healing and may worsen the damage to your tissues.
The main purpose of rest is to avoid the increase in the flow of blood to your damaged tissues. Rest also allows your scar tissues to connect and heal injured tissues.
Limiting the length of your rest to a period of less than a week minimizes the counter-effects of immobility to your fitness level.
Ice therapy is another crucial step that you should do within the first 48 hours of an acute injury to reduce pain and swelling.
You can use an ice pack, a cold gel pack, or a bag of frozen vegetables to ice the injured area.
Make sure you do not apply your pack of ice directly to your skin. Cover your ice pack with a towel or another material to keep it from touching your skin directly.
Ice therapy minimizes tissue metabolism. It also causes blood vessel constriction, which prevents further swelling.
Ice can ease pain effectively; however, see to it that you don’t ice your injured joint for more than 20 minutes at a time.
You can do so 4 to 8 times a day within the first 3 days of your injury.
TAKE NOTE: Don’t overdo it. Doing so causes further tissue damage, specifically an ice burn, which will only delay the healing process.
Provide support to your injured body part by restricting movement through compression bandaging.
The higher purpose of using an elastic medical bandage wrap is to decrease swelling and internal bleeding. It should be effective for up to 1 week.
Start applying your elasticated bandage, such as an ACE bandage, distal or away from your injured body part. Move proximally or towards it as you overlap every one-half of the previous layer.
Your compression wrap should be snug at the same time, allowing blood circulation. You will know that the compression is too tight when you experience numbness, tingling, and increased pain.
While you perform rest, ice, and compression, elevate the affected area above the heart level with the help of a pillow.
Elevation takes advantage of gravitational force to move fluids away from the injured joint. It prevents blood from reaching your site of injury to prevent swelling. It also facilitates waste removal from the site of injury and drains fluid back to the heart.
It is best to elevate the injured area for 2 to 3 hours daily and about 6-10 inches above your heart.
The Benefits of the RICE Method
Peer-reviewed studies explain the benefits of the R.I.C.E. by stage.
- Rest promotes the right amount of immobilization. This prevents further injury to tissues and allows the body to heal quicker.
- Ice therapy reduces pain as it numbs the affected area. The increased blood flow to the area helps reduce swelling as well.
- The compression brought about by the pressure of an elastic bandage controls swelling. It also immobilizes the impaired area to encourage it to recover easier.
- Elevation further reduces swelling. It allows fluids and waste to drain from the damaged site.
Is RICE Still Used in First Aid?
Yes, the RICE method is commonly used and recommended to help in the treatment of many injuries.
A 2015 Red Cross review confirms the effectiveness of ice right after an injury.
However, other studies show that there isn’t enough data to support that RICE is an effective treatment for sprained ankles.
Some researchers also challenge rest, compression, and elevation for treating an injured limb, strains, and sprains.
What Injuries Does RICE Treat?
The R.I.C.E. method is a common treatment to manage acute ankle sprains. Other mild injuries it can relieve are other sprains, strains, bruises, and other soft tissue injuries.
It aims to accelerate the recovery process, but studies to support its effectiveness remain insufficient.
It only helps manage the short-term pain and discomfort that come with these minor injuries. It is best to seek professional medical advice if discomfort continues.
When Shouldn’t You Use the RICE Method?
RICE is not recommended for broken bones and more serious soft tissue injuries. RICE is not enough to treat these kinds of injuries.
They may require more intensive treatment, such as medication, surgery, or more extensive physical therapy.
How to Treat Injuries and Sprains With the RICE Method
Start the method as soon as there is pain and swelling in an injury site.
The method is best supplemented with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen. This should help reduce swelling and pain in a minor injury, such as a sprain or strain.
More aggressive interventions, such as a massage, come with the risk of aggravating your muscle injuries and discomfort.
When You Should See a Doctor
The RICE method is a treatment for a minor injury only. If pain and swelling continue after 48 hours, it may be a call for more serious medical attention.
If you still cannot put any weight on your injured area or if it remains to be numb or misshapen, it is best to seek professional medical advice.
A recurring injury may imply a severe injury which requires prompt medical attention.
RICE, or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, helps reduce swelling and pain in minor injuries.
If discomfort and swelling persist after 48 hours of the RICE method, it is best to seek proper medical attention instead.
If you would like to learn more about first aid, Skills Training Group is a leading provider of first aid training courses. Please contact us on 0141 889 4516.