Clients are always asking whether they should ice or heat an injury. The answer is R.I.C.E within the first 72 hours after an acute injury. The acronym stands for “Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.” These are the first steps I recommend to my patients who have a joint sprain or a muscle strain. It also applies to any acute injury or chronically inflamed condition, such as plantar fasciitis or tendonitis.
Rest does not mean lie on the couch and do nothing; it means give the injured area rest. Staying off the injury as much as possible in the first few days after injury helps keep the problem from getting worse; in other words, don’t do what makes it hurt.
Icing the area can help reduce inflammation by constricting the vessels around the injury. Many people underestimate the usefulness of icing. If applied correctly, it relieves pain and reduces inflammation.
A nice technique for icing a localized area is ice massage. To perform ice massage, rub the afflicted area with ice directly on the skin using continuous motion to avoid frostbite for no more than 5 minutes. Real ice is much colder than gel packs and will be more affective at reducing inflammation. Icing should be performed once an hour during the first two days after an injury.
Compression using an ace wrap or compression sleeve / strap can help prevent further swelling and distribute pressure over an injured area. If you see gross swelling then elevating the area above your heart can help reduce swelling. When you get injured, remember R.I.C.E. These are all great steps to take when an injury first occurs.
If you have an injury, call L A R Physical Therapy at 410.381.1574 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.