Common Treatment for Sports Injuries: RICE

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Common Treatment for Sports Injuries: RICE

Treating Overuse Injuries
Common Treatment for Sports Injuries: RICE
Common Treatment for Sports Injuries: RICE
One of the most common and important acronyms in the world of sports
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Common Treatment for Sports Injuries: RICE

RICE, one of the most common and important acronyms in the world of sports, means Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Starting the RICE regimen immediately after your injury and adhering to it for the next 48 hours is often all that you'll need to get back on your feet. The idea behind RICE is to minimize the inflammation and swelling that occurs with a sports injury.

Stop the activities that will aggravate your injury. You can, however, choose another activity that doesn't hurt. For example, if you have pulled a hamstring while running, you can continue your upper-body weight-training. Rest can mean the difference between an injury that heals properly and one that continues to bother you for months.

Ice reduces the swelling and stops the pain by constricting blood flow to the injured area. Don't apply ice directly to your skin--wrap the ice bags or cold packs in cloth or apply it over an elastic bandage. You can apply the cold compress for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Take it off for at least 20 minutes before re-applying. You can do this multiple times per day for the first two days following injury. The old axiom of "ice then heat" is no longer accepted by sports specialists.

Compressing the injured area with an elastic bandage immediately after the injury limits fluid leakage into nearby areas and helps to reduce the swelling. You should wrap the bandage tightly enough so you feel some tension, but not so firmly that you cut off the circulation or feel numbness. If there is a throbbing after you wrap the area, it is too tight.

Elevating the injured body part decreases swelling and improves fluid drainage. Elevation works best when used in conjunction with the rest of the RICE treatment. Try to keep the body part elevated above the level of your heart.


Last updated June 10, 2014

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