Early treatment of an injury

Injuries are a fact of life for regular participants of sport and exercise. Immediate and correct application of the treatment acronym R.I.C.E. is appropriate for the majority of soft tissue (i.e. non bone) limb trauma and will reduce the subsequent injury severity and duration.

Rest means stopping the activity and protecting the injured body part from unnecessary movement. This will minimise the degree of tissue inflammation which, though important for the repair process, in excess can delay recovery.

Ice is used to cool the injured area. This serves two purposes. Cold will reduce blood flow to the injured tissue which in turn minimises inflammation. Additionally ice packs provide an analgesic (pain killing) effect. Purpose designed ice packs can be purchased but are easily fashioned from ice cubes wrapped in a damp towel. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin as frostbite can occur and ice should be avoided in those with circulatory disease. Apply ice packs for 15 minutes every three hours for maximum effect.

Compression applied to an injury will reduce inflammation and can be achieved with bandaging or bracing. Be careful not to cut off the blood supply through over zealousness; pain or numbness necessitates loosening the compression.

Elevation of the injury will permit gravity to assist in draining excessive swelling. Support under the raised, injured limb at rest will help to reduce the swelling.

R.I.C.E is effective when applied immediately following injury and for 2 to 3 days thereafter. Be sensible, though, if there is concern about the severity of the injury then seek prompt medical advice.