by Louise Roach
What is R.I.C.E. and why do you need it? One of the most recommended icing techniques for reducing inflammation and treating minor injuries is R.I.C.E., an acronym for rest, ice, compression and elevation. It is best used for pulled muscles, sprained ligaments, soft tissue injury, and joint aches. Applying R.I.C.E. treatments will decrease pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, swelling and tissue damage. It achieves this by reducing blood flow from local vessels near the injury and decreasing fluid hemorrhaging as a result of cell damage.
To administer R.I.C.E. use the following guidelines suggested by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
- Rest: Stop using the injured body part immediately. If you feel pain when you move, this is your body sending a signal to decrease mobility of the injured area.
- Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area, using a towel or cover to protect your skin from frostbite. The more conforming the ice pack the better, in order for the injury to receive maximum exposure to the treatment.
- Compression: Use a pressure bandage or wrap over the ice pack to help reduce swelling. Never tighten the bandage or wrap to the point of cutting off blood flow. You should not feel pain or a tingly sensation while using compression.
- Elevation: Raise or prop up the injured area so that it rests above the level of your heart.
How long should ice be applied while practicing R.I.C.E. for it to be effective? There are four levels of cold felt by the skin: coldness; a prickly or burning sensation; a feeling of aching pain; and finally a lack of sensation or numbness. When the area feels numb, icing should be discontinued. The skin should return to normal body temperature before icing again. Usually numbness can be achieved in 10 to 20 minutes. Never apply ice for more than 30 minutes at a time or tissue damage may occur.
It is generally recommended to practice R.I.C.E. at intervals of 4 to 6 hours for up to 48 hours after an injury. Heat treatments are appropriate for some injuries, but should only be considered after inflammation has receded, approximately 72 hours after an injury. If the body part does not respond to R.I.C.E. therapy within 48 hours, it would be wise to consult your health care provider in the event a serious injury has occurred such as internal bleeding or a broken bone.
For minor injuries, use R.I.C.E. instead of plain ice!
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical treatment or consultation. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury.
About the Author
Louise Roach is the editor of an on-line health and fitness newsletter. She has been instrumental in the development of SnowPack, a patented cold therapy that exhibits the same qualities as ice. For more information visit: www.snowpackusa.com.
- See also the No HARM principle