RICE Treatment of acute musculoskeletal injury


RICE treatment is recommended by healthcare professionals for the early treatment of bone injuries or acute soft tissue injuries, such as sprains or strains. It can be helpful for sports injuries , closed fractures, and degenerative joint problems .

How to treat sports injuries with the RICE technique

The abbreviation RICE stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Height

The main goal of RICE is to relieve pain and swelling as quickly as possible.

It should be started as soon as pain and swelling develop and used until minor injuries have healed or other treatment is started for more complex problems. These are the basics of RICE

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Rest is essential for the healing of damaged tissues. Without rest, movement and exertion can worsen the injury and lead to increased inflammation and swelling.

You must first reduce or stop using the injured area for 48 hours. If you have a leg injury, you may need to stay away from it and not put any weight on it. You may need to use assistive devices or mobility aids to stay away from an injured joint or limb .


Ice is helpful in reducing pain and inflammation associated with acute trauma. Icing is considered to be most effective if done in the first few days after injury. You can apply ice for 20 minutes at a time and up to every hour. Apply ice four to eight times a day if you like.

You can use a cold gel pack or a plastic bag filled with ice, but do not apply the ice pack directly to the skin. Instead, wrap the ice pack in a towel or make sure there is a layer of material between the ice and your skin. Gel packs or cold compresses sold for this purpose often have a lid.

Do not leave ice on the injury for more than 20 minutes or it may damage your skin.

After removing the ice pack, give your skin plenty of time to warm up before reapplying the frosting.


Squeezing an injured or painful ankle, knee, or wrist can help reduce swelling. The most widely used elastic bandages are ACE bandages. Special shoes, air casts, and splints can serve a dual purpose: compression and support. Your healthcare provider should recommend and discuss the options.

Do not apply excessive compression, which can act like a tourniquet and interrupt circulation. If you feel stitches, the bandage may be too tight; take it off and put it a little looser.


Elevate the injured part of the body above the level of the heart. This will provide a downward path for fluid to drain back into the heart, which can reduce swelling and pain. Try to raise the entire limb 6 to 10 inches above the heart to complete the descent. Lie down and use a pillow to lift the injured limb.

When to seek medical help

Too often, people with acute trauma do nothing in the hope that it will go away without any intervention. RICE is helpful for many common acute injuries, especially when combined with over-the-counter pain relievers.

If pain and swelling persist after 48 hours, see your doctor.

If a serious injury occurs, seek professional help immediately. Severe trauma involves an obvious fracture , joint dislocation, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain. Serious injuries may require more intensive treatment and possibly surgery.

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Sprains and strains can happen to anyone, whether it's on the playing field or simply from the wrong movement at home. The optimal plan is to control pain, swelling, and inflammation as soon as possible.

It is advisable to have an ice pack and an ACE bandage as part of your first aid supplies. You can even store the cold gel pack in the freezer to keep it ready.

Frequently asked questions

  • Traditionally, ice is recommended for the first 48 hours or so because it reduces inflammation and swelling (due to increased blood flow to the area) and pain. However, some researchers frown on the use of ice, arguing that the extra blood flow could allow the body to heal faster. You can try ice or no ice, whichever you think will work for your recovery, but never use heat for a new acute injury.

  • Compression means wrapping an elastic band around an injured area to reduce swelling. You should wrap it in a way that provides light pressure, but not so tight that you don't feel additional numbness, tingling, pain, or swelling. The compression bandage is needed only for the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury.

  • It depends on the severity of the injury and other factors, but a minimum of two to three days off is generally recommended. However, you may not want the injured area to remain completely still. Talk to your doctor about whether you should exercise lightly or do movements to prevent stiffness and pain.

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