The routine care of many injuries includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE therapy). RICE therapy is often recommended for injuries to soft tissues, such as muscle strain, sprains, bruises, and overuse injuries. It can also be used for some bone injuries. Using RICE therapy can help to relieve pain and lessen swelling.
- Plastic bag.
- Elastic bandage.
- Pillow or pillows to raise (elevate) the injured body part.
How to care for your injury with RICE therapy
Rest your injury. This may help with the healing process. Rest usually involves limiting your normal activities and not using the injured part of your body. Generally, you can return to your normal activities when your healthcare provider says it is okay and you can do them without much discomfort.
If you rest the injury too much, it may not heal as well. Some injuries heal better with early movement instead of resting for too long. Talk with your healthcare provider about how you should limit your activities and whether you should start range-of-motion exercises for your injury.
Ice your injury to lessen swelling and pain. Do not apply ice directly to your skin.
- Put ice in a plastic bag. Alternatively, a cold pack can be used.
- Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
- Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day. Use ice on as many days as told by your healthcare provider.
Put pressure (compression) on your injured area to control swelling, give support, and help with discomfort. Compression may be done with an elastic bandage. If an elastic bandage has been applied, follow these general tips:
- Use the bandage as directed by the maker of the bandage that you are using.
- Do not wrap the bandage too tightly. That may block (cut off) circulation in the arm or leg in the area below the bandage.
- If part of your body beyond the bandage becomes blue, numb, cold, swollen, or more painful, your bandage is probably too tight. If this occurs, remove your bandage and reapply it more loosely.
- Remove and reapply the bandage every 3–4 hours or as told by your healthcare provider.
- See your healthcare provider if the bandage seems to be making your problems worse rather than better.
Elevate your injured area to lessen swelling and pain. If possible, elevate your injured area at or above the level of your heart or the centre of your chest.
Contact a healthcare provider if:
- Your pain and swelling continue.
- Your symptoms are getting worse rather than improving.
Having these problems may mean that you need further evaluation or imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI. Sometimes, X-rays may not show a small broken bone (fracture) until days after the injury happened. Make a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider.
Get help right away if:
- You have sudden severe pain at or below the area of your injury.
- You have redness or increased swelling around your injury.
- You have tingling or numbness at or below the area of your injury and it does not improve after you remove the elastic bandage.
- The routine care of many injuries includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE therapy). Using RICE therapy can help to relieve pain and lessen swelling.
- RICE therapy is often recommended for injuries to soft tissues, such as muscle strain, sprains, bruises, and overuse injuries. It can also be used for some bone injuries.
- Seek medical care if your pain and swelling continue or if your symptoms are getting worse rather than improving.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.
ACoSCo Trauma: ATLS® Student Manual.10th ed.2018.American College of SurgeonsChicago, IL
Hoover T.J., Siefert J.A.: Soft tissue complications of orthopedic emergencies. Emerg Med Clin North Am 2000; 18: pp. 115-139.
Zarzaur B.L., Croce M.A., Fabian T.C.: Play or pay: a financial model for trauma care in a regional trauma system. J Trauma Acute Care Surg 2012; 72: pp. 78-83. discussion 83-75
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