RICE Therapy and First Aid

RICE TherapyHow quickly an injury is treated after it develops does make a difference. Many times, complications and additional damage can be avoided altogether with prompt care. The sooner the body starts healing itself, the sooner you’re able to get back to your activities, too. One of the most common and effective first aid treatments for soft tissue injuries like sprains is a therapy called RICE.

What Is RICE?

RICE is a basic acronym that stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. It’s the four basic steps of a first aid treatment for soft tissue injuries. It’s most commonly used for sprains and muscle strains. Once you know how to apply it, you can easily use it immediately after you get hurt.

You rest by stopping whatever activity caused your injury. More than that, though, you avoid other activities that cause pain—basically, you take it easy and avoid aggravating the damage. For severely injured tissues, it might mean limiting how much weight you put on your limb, too. As soon as you can, apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel directly to the painful area. Only leave the ice on for 20 minutes at a time, but you can reapply the ice multiple times a day for the first day or two after the injury. This combats swelling and inflammation.

Compression and elevation work together to cut down on swelling that follows a soft tissue injury. Wrap the painful joint or other part of your lower limbs in a compression bandage. The wrap should be tight, but not so tight it cuts off your circulation. Keep your foot elevated as much as possible in the first few days, too, to keep swelling from settling in your limb.

Why It Works

As a therapy overall for speedy healing, RICE is best paired with rehabilitation. Each of the steps work so well in the early stages of an injury, though, because they keep you from worsening the problem and then combat the inflammation and swelling. Resting forces you to step back and allow the tissues time to heal without being stressed. Ice contracts your soft tissues, which decreases swelling. The coldness also alleviates inflammation and pain. Compression squeezes your soft tissues, preventing fluid from collecting in them and causing swelling. Elevating your foot keeps gravity from pooling fluids in your limb, too. All of this together helps set your foot on the path to healing quickly.

Pairing RICE with Rehab

RICE is best with rehabilitation. More and more experts are realizing that early mobilization and exercises to improve range of motion and strength help you heal more quickly and effectively. Resting, icing, compressing, and elevating your foot in the first couple of days helps you fight inflammation and swelling. After that early stage, though, experts like our team at Podiatry Associates, P.C. will help you continue to heal with targeted treatments that address the damage and rebuild your limb power and stability throughout the rest of your recovery period.

Overall, RICE makes for an effective first aid option for dealing with injuries like sprains. It provides a springboard of sorts for your healing by controlling swelling and inflammation in soft tissues. It is only a first step, however. Continuing on with rehabilitation and strengthening your lower limbs after an injury are key to your recovery. If you’re struggling with lower limb pain and using RICE treatments, or you’re not sure what to do, contact our experts at Podiatry Associates, P.C. in Castle Pines, Parker, and Cherry Creek office in Denver, CO. You can reach us online or by calling (303) 805-5156.

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