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R.I.C.E. for treating sprains, strains and contusions


The day before basketball practice begins, your starting point guard is playing a pick-up game in the gym. The player goes up for a shot, and then lands on the outside of his foot with a loud pop. There is immediate pain and swelling in the ankle. Now what? R.I.C.E.!

What does R.I.C.E. have to do with a sprained ankle? Everything! When treating any type of sprain, strain, or contusion (bruise), think R.I.C.E.

Sprains are injuries to the ligament. Ligaments are tight, fibrous bands that go between bones to maintain joint stability. A strain is damage occurring to muscles and tendons. Tendons connect the contractible muscles to bones. The shortening or lengthening of muscles creates movement by pulling on the bones. Contusions (bruises) are caused by direct trauma resulting in bleeding within the tissue, affecting any type of soft tissue.

What is R.I.C.E.? An acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, the following techniques are used for the initial treatment of most sprains, strains, and contusions.

RESTallows the injured area to continue through the healing stages. General guidelines:

  • Limping means more rest is needed; the best way to rest is by using crutches.
  • Inability to normally reach or carry your arm indicates that more rest is needed; a sling is a good way to rest the shoulder or arm. Putting your hand in your pocket can also decrease the irritation.

ICE (cold) will decrease the pain as well as assist healing by decreasing swelling. Types of cold include ice in a bag or commercial cold packs. Take note, cold packs taken directly from a freezer can cause frostbite – wrap your pack before applying it to your skin. Cold can be used as often as every hour - 20 minutes with ice followed by 40 minutes of no ice.

COMPRESSION can be achieved by using an ace wrap or certain support braces. The goal is to prevent fluid from accumulating in the injured area, which can slow the healing process as well as negatively affect recovery and healing. The use of compression should not increase the pain at the injury site or areas below that level; rather, it should deliver comfortable, consistent, compression throughout the injured body area.

ELEVATION is maintained by keeping the injured body area above the heart.

The correct treatment of soft tissue injuries can speed healing and expedite return to activities; just remember R.I.C.E. For questions on R.I.C.E., or to schedule a Free Injury Evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™ at (414) 219-7776 or (800) 219-7776.