I adore acronyms. They’re fantastic memory aids. In medical school, they helped me remember a lot of things. And many of them I still recall to this day. To say the least, I employ them whenever possible. RICE is one that I utilize the most frequently.
In my articles on sprains and fractures, I frequently recommend resting, icing, compression, and elevation as the first line of treatment. This should absolutely be included in every injury post I write. 90 percent of the fundamental principles of initial care for any injury are covered by RICE (some use PRICE or RICES; more on that later).
So, rather than explain RICE for injuries in detail every time I use the term, I thought I’d just sum it up here and link to relevant information. And even you seasoned veterans may pick up a new skill or two along the way.
Rest: The damaged part should not be used.
Ice: Just let it sit for ten minutes at a time. Allow at least 10 minutes between sessions. (Use a towel to separate your skin from the ice pack.)
Compression: Use an elastic bandage to cover the injury (not too tightly; you should be able to get two fingers beneath). If your fingertips or toes tingle, become numb, blue, or cold, loosen the wrap.
Elevation: Raise the injury as high as possible above your heart or near it.
Splint: Wrap the injured area with a bandage that is both firm and elastic.
What Does RICE do?
In general, utilizing RICE to treat injuries prevents two major problems:
- Further injury. If a bone is moving around, it will usually get more misaligned and the bone fragments will damage more tendons, muscles, and blood vessels.
- Major swelling. Swelling can occur in any limb that has been injured. It’s your body’s way of splinting and cushioning the injury—to keep it from moving and protect it. However, if you have too much swelling in your arm or leg, circulation to a hand or foot might be restricted. Furthermore, swelling can stretch tissues and cause additional suffering.
What Does RICE(S) Mean?
Rest. Some people recommend putting a P (protection) before RICE, however I feel this is implied by the word rest. In part, rest is defined as:
- Sleep deprivation is a physiological state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic functions.
- a: freedom from activity or labor.
That is precisely what this implies. Do not put your ailing wrist to use. Don’t walk or run with an injured ankle. You’ll just wind up hurting it more in the process.
I’m sure you realize that there are times when you have no choice but to do so, but even then, it’s possible to limit your activity. Use a walking stick or crutch. Using it may aid in the healing of certain injuries over time, depending on the severity. However, simply resting at first is sufficient.
Heat, in contrast to cold, does the reverse of what it does to blood vessels. Heat increases blood flow to the heated tissue. If most of the swelling has gone after a few days, heat can aid in recovery by bringing additional nutrients to the damaged tissue.
Ice. The discomfort you feel is caused by an increase in temperature. When the tissue reaches a certain temperature, blood vessels dilate and discharge fluid into the tissue. This can be normal (serum) or whole blood or both. Blood vessels constrict when subjected to cold, which restricts blood flow.
Ice can also cause tissue damage if it is used too frequently or for too long. As a result, if you’re employing ice or an ice bag, keep it hidden under a cloth so that the skin isn’t directly exposed to the cold. Then limit its use to ten minutes at a time and leave it off for at least ten minutes before returning it on.
Compression. An elastic bandage, when wrapped around your injury, reduces blood flow pressure and inhibits swelling.
Be cautious. If you wrap it too tightly or the swelling persists for an extended amount of time, you risk cutting off blood flow entirely. Body parts require some blood flow. Even if your fingers or toes tingle or become numb, blue, or cold when you have an elastic bandage on, make certain there is a few millimeter gap between the bandage and your skin before removing it to help prevent circulation from being cut off by accident.
Elevation. To do this, bring the injured part as high up to your heart level or as close to it as possible. If you’re dealing with a leg, you’ll have to sit or lie down doing it. You may need a sling or a cushion if you have an arm injury.)
For more information on how to make different sorts of splints, have a look at these videos:
- Splint (general)
- Neck brace
- Finger splint
Why? Swelling is common in afflicted regions. Blood flow pressure causes fluid to be pushed from the blood vessels to the damage site. The blood flow pressure is reversed when the injured area is raised, resulting in less swelling.
Splint. Some people prefer to add an S to the RICE. I do, too. To keep it from moving, apply something hard (a commercial splint, brace, newspapers, sticks, etc.) on opposed sides of an arm or leg (or neck) that has been injured. Wrap it in place using the compression bandage. This can be added either to the Rest area or the Protect section by some individuals.
If you don’t learn anything else about how to treat a sprain, torn ligament or cartilage, or broken bone, learn RICE. Learn what it implies and how to apply it. Because at some point in time, whether disaster strikes or not, you will profit from knowing it.
Have you ever utilized any of these approaches? Have you ever wished to but didn’t know how?
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