August 9, 2010 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

No, I am not referring to the complex carbohydrate you should be including in your meal plan. However, I am referring to an acronym one should remember as the first course of action to any immediate injury. As a former athlete and now athletic trainer / physical therapist this is an acronym I use on a daily basis in my work environment. Every time I sprained my ankle playing basketball or on the occasional muscle pull during a workout this would be my first reaction. R.I.C. E stands for the first 4 immediate first aid measures to be taken in order to relieve pain, decrease swelling to injured site, and protect the area that has been injured. If this action is taken immediately it can speed the healing process significantly and decrease further complications.

Injuries resulting in inflammation of the damaged tissue most often present with symptoms and signs of bruising, swelling, bleeding (internally and/or externally), and pain at the injured site. Pain that is sharp or stabbing is usually the first sign of damage. The most important time to do R.I.C.E. treatment is the first 72 hours of an injury, better known as the “acute phase” of injury. By all means if one needs to go to the ER or call 911 immediately they should do so. This DOES NOT take the place of emergency medical help that may be needed for serious injury.

Steps to the R.I.C.E treatment:

1. R – Rest: STOP doing what you are doing!: playing, training, running, jumping, etc.. Get medical attention if necessary and allow your body to rest. This step is significantly important for protection of the injured body part: muscle, tendon, ligament, bone, tissues. You do not want to cause or create further injury to the area or surrounding area by continuing your activity. When your body is at rest this is the time it uses to heal itself.

2. I – Ice: Prepare a bag of ice, frozen peas, cold pack anything in your freezer that will form to the body part. Wrap the frozen ice in a thin towel, or paper towel, and then apply it to the injured site, surrounding the whole area. Cold treatment decrease pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels reducing blood flow to the area. Do this for ONLY 10-15 minutes at a time and OFF for 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day. Don’t forget to do it right before you go to bed to help calm the pain and inflammation which will help you sleep better. Longer exposure to cold (more than 15 minutes) can cause damage to your skin. So be careful on how long you expose your skin to ice. Do NOT fall asleep with the ice on.

3. C – Compression: Helps decrease and limit the amount of swelling to the injured site. Swelling will slow down the healing process. One easy and effective way to compress an injured site is by using an ACE bandage. CAUTION: Do not wrap the site to tight. If you begin to feel throbbing pain, if the wrap feels too tight, or you notice increased swelling distally to the bandaged site your wrap is TOO TIGHT. Take it off and re-wrap it. If it is a hand or ankle then check the nail bed for capillary refilling. Pinch your toe or finger nail and see how fast is changes back from blanching (white) to color. This time should only be a second or 2.

4. E – Elevation: Place the injured or affected area above the level of your heart. This also helps to reduce swelling. This step is the one most often ignored, but don’t forget swelling slows down the healing process. An example of elevation: injured ankle: Lie on your back on the couch or bed and prop a couple of pillows under your leg, lifting your knee / ankle above the level of your heart. Try to eliminate the gravity dependent position as much as possible.

Once again, this DOES NOT take the place of immediate or follow-up medical treatment. If your pain and swelling increase or is persistent go to the ER, call 911, or your primary care physician, depending on the severity of YOUR SYMPTOMS. Every step you make after the injury affects your healing process.


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