RICE Orthopedic Injury Treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) is a common and effective treatment for acute injuries, those which happen suddenly usually from an accident or traumatic event. Knowing how to apply ice, as well as how long and when to use ice are important factors in treating an injury and how effective the treatment will be.
Treating Acute Orthopedic Injury with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation)
Acute injuries typically involve damage to soft tissues (ligaments and muscles) and are accompanied by symptoms such as:
Common Acute Orthopedic Injury
- Deep bruises
- Muscle contusions
- Overuse injuries
RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation of Orthopedic Injuries
When an acute orthopedic injury occurs, it is best to treat the injury as quickly as possible using the RICE method – rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
- Rest: Protect the sore or injured area by taking a temporary break from any activity which increases the pain.
- Ice: Apply an ice pack to keep swelling down. Be sure to follow proper ice treatment instructions.
- Compression: Wrap the injury with an elastic bandage to decrease swelling. Make sure the bandage is not too tight.
- Elevation: Elevate the injured area at or above the heart level if possible during ice applications and when at rest.
How to Properly Ice an Orthopedic Injury
After an injury, the area can swell when blood vessels leak fluid into the injured area. Applying ice to the injury constricts the blood vessels whereby limiting the leakage of fluid and reducing the inflammation. Ice should be applied early and often during the first 48 hours after an injury.
Benefits of using ice packs can include:
- Minimizes swelling
- Reduces bleeding into the tissues
- Relieves pain
- Reduces muscle spasms
When using ice on an acute injury, you should take care to follow these guidelines to avoid worsening or complicating your condition.
Proper ice treatment methods include:
- Start ice treatment quickly: After 48 hours, the benefits of ice are dramatically reduced.
- Use a timer: Apply ice for 15-20 minutes at a time and allow the injured area to warm up between treatments (approximately 45-60 minutes). Over-icing can cause damage to your tissues and even frostbite.
- Protect your skin: Never place ice directly on the skin. Place the ice pack inside a small, thin towel to avoid ice burns. Remove the ice if the skin becomes bright pink or red.
Commercial ice packs are available which conform to the body and can be kept in the freezer and reused. You can also place ice (crushed if possible) into a plastic baggie with a small amount of water to help the ice conform to the injured area. Be sure to use a towel to protect your skin. A bag of frozen vegetables can be an effective ice pack and can be placed back in the freezer for reuse, as well.
When Not to Use Icepacks on Orthopedic Injury
These are certain situations and conditions for which you should never use ice:
- The left shoulder if you have any heart problems
- The front or side of the neck
- Skin that is in poor condition or lacks sensation
- Any part of the body with poor circulation
- A chronic injury prior to activity (ice afterward)
- An infected area
- If you are diabetic, you should not use ice packs without consulting your doctor.
Using proper ice treatment on an injury can be instrumental in a speedy recovery, getting you back to your normal activities and pain-free as quickly as possible. If you are unsure about icing an injury, contact our doctors for advice.