If you play sports, either as a professional or just on the weekends, it’s important to be informed about certain sports injuries and treatment options. You may have heard of the RICE method of treating injuries such as sprains, strains and pulled muscles, but the method is not just for athletes. Everyday people from all walks of life can also use the RICE method to reduce pain and swelling, speed healing, and avoid more serious damage from overuse.
When you injure yourself on the field, many people think they are supposed to “rub some dirt on it,” shrug it off and just keep going. The truth however, is exactly the opposite. Your body has only one system to tell you it is struggling and needs help. And it is spelled P.A.I.N. Pain is the only way your body can tell you that something has gone wrong. When you feel a strain or pain, it is time to pay attention.
The RICE method explained
The “R” in RICE stands for “rest,” and the very first things you should do is stop. Stop, take a break, assess the injury. This is especially true if you see obvious signs of an injury or hear noises such as pops or clicks, or experience acute (sudden) pain.
Next, apply the “I,” as in “ice”. Cold can help reduce swelling and decrease pain levels. Apply an ice pack as soon as possible. If you do not have an ice-pack, consider using plastic bags with a cup of ice in it, or even a bag of frozen vegetables to help cool the area down. Ice should be applied for 10-20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day. After two to three days, if swelling is gone, you can add heat to the affected area to help loosen up muscles. Remember that you should not apply either ice or heat directly to the skin. Use a towel or other barrier to prevent burns to the injured area (Heat can be applied after 48-72 hours, once the swelling is down).
The third step in the method is compression. Compression, or wrapping the injured area, can help reduce swelling. An elastic bandage or compression garment may be ideal to keep the area compressed. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly, though. You do not want to cut off blood flow or cause swelling above or below the affected area.
The last section of the method is elevation. Try to prop up, or elevate, the injured area while you are applying ice to reduce swelling. The idea is to keep the injury area above your heart if possible. As with any injury, make sure to have it checked out by a doctor. After all, you only have one body, so taking care of it just makes sense. Remember: you can use rest, ice, compression, and elevation for recovery, but you should also see your doctor for strains, sprains and overuse injuries.
If you would like more information about the RICE method, or to schedule an appointment, please contact Orthopaedic Associates at (440) 892-1440 today.