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Revisiting The RICE Approach To Sports Injury Treatment

by Terry Wilson

Most minor sports injuries can be treated using what sports medicine doctors have come to call the RICE treatment. No, this does not mean you use grains or rice to treat your injury. Rather, RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The idea is that by resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the injured area, you reduce inflammation and speed healing. This sounds simple at first, but when you really dig into it, a few questions may arise. So here is a closer look at the RICE approach with tips for implementing each stage more effectively.


Rest is the first and most important step in treating minor sports injuries, but it's the one athletes cheat on the most! Perhaps this is because there's such a drive to get back out there and keep practicing. However, if you don't take rest seriously, it will take you a lot longer to recover. Resting means taking time away from the training — period. You need to skip practice (or watch from the sidelines) and focus on activities that are not physically demanding. If you have trouble resting, set a non-physical goal for your rest days to help keep you motivated. For example, you could download a new game and make it your goal to beat it within your rest period.


Ice does not have to actually be ice; the point is that you cool off the injured area. You can certainly use a bag of frozen corn, or if the injury is in your foot, you can immerse your foot in ice water. Apply ice for about 20 minutes at a time. You can do this every 2 to 3 hours if you like, although, after the first two or three days, icing three times a day is probably enough.


Compression just means applying a bandage or other items to keep the pressure on the area and keep it from swelling. A compression sock is the easiest choice if you have an injury in your lower leg or foot, although you could also wrap the leg. Compression sleeves work well for arm injuries. Wear this sleeve or sock all day, but take it off at night so the area has a chance to breathe.


Elevating the injured area above the level of your heart encourages fluid to go back into your circulatory system, which reduces swelling, which in turn speeds up healing. Most people elevate at the same time as the ice. You can set your leg on a footrest with an ice pack on it, for instance. Elevate as much as you can. If you can sit all day with your injured limb elevated, that's awesome. 

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how, exactly, to implement the RICE method. To learn more information, reach out to a company such as Town Center Orthopaedic Associates, P.C.