Immediate action following an injury: RICE
You know when an injury occurs. There may be pain, swelling, bruising or even bleeding. This is due to the tissue damage causing bleeding in the small blood vessels. However the body often overreacts to sudden injury resulting in more inflammatory fluid accumulating than is necessary for healing. This fluid contains a protein that turns into replacement “scar” tissue, too much can prevent the structure returning to normal with stiffness and increased risk of re-injury. Anyone experiencing an injury should carry out the following instructions immediately and for up to 3-5 days after injury.
The first and best thing to do is to apply the RICE formula; a tried and tested treatment for reducing pain and swelling and preparing the body for the next stage of treatment. Many sports injuries such as muscle strains, sprains and fractures heal faster when RICE is used immediately following an injury
The acronym RICE stands for
Rest: Forcing yourself to go on when there are signs of an injury is not only damaging to the tissue but also unwise. It prevents healing from taking place and may prolong the injury. Rest lowers the energy needs of the area, avoiding increase in blood flow, ensuring protection of the area and optimising healing.
Ice: Helps limit the body’s over-reaction. It helps constrict the blood vessels limiting bleeding and reducing the accumulation of unnecessary tissue protection.Cold provides short-term pain relief. An ice pack or even a pack of frozen peas may be wrapped in a damp towel and placed on another towel on the skin. Never apply ice directly to the skin, and do not leave on longer than twenty minutes.
Compression: This reduces the swelling which occurs when blood and other substances rush to the site of an injury. Limiting the unnecessary accumulation of inflammatory fluid and over-production of scar tissue Applying compression bandage snugly over the part gets rid of the swelling and reduces the pain as well. The area should be compressed a minimum of six inches above and below the site of injury, pins and needles means it is too tight. It should be flexible enough to allow initial swelling and still apply pressure as this reduces.
Elevation: Resting with the injured part above the level of the heart is the best means of relieving swelling. It helps lower the blood pressure and therefore limits bleeding. While sitting, you should elevate the leg on a chair or stool. If it is the arm, you may use pillows or cushions. Use pillows when lying in bed for either the arm or leg.
It is also important to remember that is not only what you should do, but what you should avoid that will help maximize your recovery.
It is important to avoid HARM during the first 48 hours after treatment.
H – Heat (eg. Hot bath, sauna)
A – Alcohol
R – Running
M – Massage
For any injury, it is important to check with your physiotherapist or doctor as soon as possible. Mild injuries may need no further intervention than the above, but this decision should be made by a professional.