What’s a RICE Treatment Have to Do With Your Sports Injury?

Participating in sports is rewarding and exciting, but it can also be risky. That’s because injuries happen suddenly—when someone falls, receives a blow, or twists a joint. Called acute injuries, they are the result of a single traumatic event to soft tissue. And they happen whether you’re part of an organized sport or a more casual athlete.

Fortunately, many of those injuries, while painful, don’t have to have devastating consequences. And knowing how to treat them at home can help you recover faster. Town Center Orthopaedics explains how using the RICE treatment can play a significant role in your healing.

Is the RICE Treatment the Right Treatment for Your Injury?

When you have a soft tissue injury such as a sprain, strain, or bruise, the RICE treatment is often the first treatment often recommended by us at Town Center Orthopaedics.

RICE stands for Rest Ice Compression and Elevation, and it encompasses many of the treatment steps for the first 48 hours after an injury:

 A person’s foot rests on a couch with a blue ice bag on their ankle as part of the RICE treatment.

  • Rest: Limit the activity of the injured area and keep weight off it to protect it from further damage. It’s a good idea to use a splint, cane, brace, or crutches if available.
  • Ice: Ice the injury for 20 minutes at a time, a few times a day for the first couple of days, to help reduce the pain and swelling. Make sure to protect your skin with a towel.
  • Compression: Loosely wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage to help support it.
  • Elevate: When sitting down or resting, raise the injured area above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Most people can easily follow RICE at home for a couple of days to help reduce swelling and get them on the road to recovery.

How Long Should Swelling Last After an Injury?

Depending on the damage, swelling can last anywhere from several days to several weeks.

A fact about swelling: it occurs when the immune system rushes white blood cells, proteins, antibodies, and fluids to the injury site. The excess fluid helps protect the damaged tissues from additional injury. But too much swelling may slow healing, which is why doctors recommend RICE to help control the swelling. Your doctor may also advise you to take a nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen to help with the inflammation and reduce the pain.

Learn How to Prevent Overuse Injuries in Athletes

What Happens Next?

Once you start to see some improvement in the swelling or the pain, you should be careful with your movements so that you don’t incur more damage or suffer a setback. Continue to follow any orders you may have been given. Depending on the severity of the damage, your doctor may recommend physical therapy, massage, or exercise to help you get stronger. Follow their recommendations about resuming sports or other activities.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Most soft tissue injuries will heal on their own, but you should see a Town Center Orthopaedics specialist if you:

  • Don’t see improvement after several days
  • Have pain accompanied by a fever
  • Observe the injury turning blue (this could be a sign of an emergency and you should be seen urgently for care, often in the Emergency Room)
  • Are experiencing numbness in the area
  • Can’t put any weight on it or move it
  • See the area is misshapen (this also could be a sign of an emergency and you should be seen urgently for care, often in the Emergency Room)
  • Are experiencing chronic pain
  • Unlike acute injury pain caused by something immediate and specific, chronic pain lasts several months. If you are still suffering pain months later, it could mean that the original injury hasn’t healed or has healed poorly.

Town Center Orthopaedics: with you from injury to recovery and beyond

If you experience an acute injury like a sprain or strain, connect with Town Center Orthopaedics first. Then, you can relax knowing that you’ll receive high-quality, patient-centered, state-of-the-art orthopedic care. Your best outcome is our top priority.

Request an appointment at one of our convenient locations in Ashburn, Centreville, Fairfax, and Reston, Virginia. We’ll get you set up right away and back to enjoying your life quickly.

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TCO provides patients with orthopedic problems the trusted resources and patient-centered advice they need to “Feel Better. Move Better. Be Better.”