Why RICE Treatment Works

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RICE TreatmentRice is great for many things. Not only is it a staple food throughout the world, it can help absorb moisture from a waterlogged cell phone. It also spells out the steps for a popular first aid treatment and becomes an easy way to remember the steps. Many athletes and active people already understand that using RICE treatment means applying rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

RICE as a first aid treatment for soft tissue injuries, particularly sprains, has been around for decades. Although it’s not perfect, it actually works quite well for decreasing and preventing swelling. Each of the “steps” works together to ease pain and get the foot or ankle ready for rehabilitation.

  • Rest avoids aggravating the damage or making the problem worse. It means stopping whatever activity caused your injury, and avoiding using your foot too much or participating in sports that could make the problem worse. By not using your foot or ankle so strenuously, you give your damaged tissues a chance to recover. In severe cases, you might need to avoid weight-bearing altogether.
  • Ice decreases swelling as well as alleviates pain. The cold causes the soft tissues and blood vessels to contract. This prevents fluids from leaking into those tissues and creating edema. The ice also decreases inflammation, which is a major factor in discomfort. With swelling and irritation under control, the body is better able to heal itself.
  • Compression also discourages swelling, while helping to stabilize your foot. A compression bandage wraps your foot or your ankle tightly. This squeezes out fluids that may be leaking into your soft tissues. An appropriately tight wrap keeps joints stable without over-restricting movement, too, so you can still move your foot to prevent stiffness.
  • Elevation simply means keeping your foot propped up and parallel to the ground. This is helpful because it partly negates an unfortunate effect of gravity. Gravity pulls fluids down into your feet, where they are likely to pool and create swelling. Elevating your foot makes this less likely.

Using RICE treatment as a first aid therapy helps you get rid of swelling and irritation so soft tissues can heal, but it’s not the end to your recovery. It’s just the beginning. If you’re not sure how to apply RICE, or you need a next step in care, contact Podiatry Associates, P.C. in Cherry Creek, Castle Pines, and Parker, CO. You can reach us online, or by calling (303) 805-5156.

Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen, DPM
Founder and Owner of Podiatry Associates, PC
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