RICE for Sprains and Strains?

RICE for Sprains and Strains?

RICE for Sprains and Strains? Most people have heard of RICE for soft tissue (muscular) injuries. Whether it a twisted ankle or strained wrist or shoulder RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate). However there is confusion over the terms used to describe these terms, in this article we hope to simply all the terms and describe the process of RICE.

Some simple definitions;

Sprain – A joint sprain is tearing or overstretching of the ligaments. A ligament connects two bone together at a joint. One of the commonest sprains is the ankle. It is common for sprains to show bruising.

Strain – A joint strain is tearing or overstretching of the muscles and tendons. Tendons connect muscles to bones. It is common for strains to be associated with muscle spasms in the affected muscle.

Soft tissue – Soft tissue refers to all muscles, ligaments, tendons, skin and internal organs. Injuries include blisters, cuts, sprains and strains.

Hard tissue – Hard tissue generally refers to bone and teeth. We would often think of a fracture or chipped bone as a hard tissue injury.

RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) was an acronym first used in 1978. A doctor Mirkin from the USA coined the term in their book The Sports Medicine Book. It has since become the standard treatment for immediate and sudden sports injuries.

In more recent times some researchers have questions the use of RICE for injury management. However we must remember what type of research has lead to questioning the RICE methodology.

Why are ankle injuries so common in sport?So what does RICE really mean?

REST – The more you sue the injured area the worse the damage will become. With a twisted ankle if you continue to walk or run on it immediately after the injury it will become more damaged and the swelling around the injury site will increase. This could cause longer-term damage. If you have twisted your ankle, Sit down and rest! For more serious injuries where you have a severe pain you my need to immobilise the injury too.

ICE – The word ICE is used but what is really meant is cool the injury site. A cold compress (wet towel) will do as an immediate fix. Cooling the injury site will help prevent swelling as blood is diverted away from the cooled area. Additionally the nerves endings are cooled so don’t work as well, so cooling gives pain relief. Many coaches use sports cold packs for this which is ideal. If you are using ice remember not to freeze the skin, just cool it! Wrap the ice in a light towel before applying it. Cool the injury site for 10-15 minutes and take off the ice pack for 45 minutes, then repeat.

COMPRESS – Light compression will help to reduce swelling. A ‘comfortable’ bandage can be applied. Compression will squeeze the blood vessels around the injury and help prevent swelling. Compression bandages should be put on for a couple of hours at a time and then taken off for an hour or so. They should NOT be used overnight.

ELEVATE – Lifting the injury will also help prevent swelling by gravity. Make sure the elevation does not cause more pain to the casualty.

You’ll want to keep the ankle protected and make sure that you’re getting appropriate rest for the first 24-72 hours after the injury.


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Digital Sports First Aid ManualYou may be interested in our Digital Sports First Aid manual. The manual is free for anyone who books on one of our first aid courses. This can be downloaded multiple times to your hand held tablet or phone and includes links to a large video library of videos demonstrating first aid techniques like CPR and injury management. The manual also contains links to a library of blogs dealing with specific illnesses and injuries.