R.I.C.E.: Is it the Answer?
University of Iowa Health Science Relations
First Published: 2001
Last Revised: May 2003
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
You've twisted your ankle...strained your shoulder...pulled your
back. If you can't get to your doctor immediately following an injury
and it is not a medical emergency, then try the R.I.C.E. method:
The R.I.C.E. treatment is most
beneficial for the first 24 to 72 hours; if the pain persists, you
should see your doctor.
Rest means do nothing that is painful and stop using the
Apply Ice to the affected area as soon as possible to
reduce swelling and pain, and minimize inflammation. Cold deeply
penetrates the soft tissue, slowing down the blood flow to the
injured area, reducing swelling, and causing numbing of the nerve
endings. First, you'll feel the cold, then stinging, burning, and
finally numbness. The cold is uncomfortable, but it is important to
keep the cold pack in place. Once the injured area becomes numb, the
cold should be removed. Ice may be applied by placing an ice bag over
the injured part or by gently massaging the area with ice for five to
10 minutes. Always place a thin towel or washcloth between the ice
and skin to prevent frostbite. Treatment should consist of 20 minutes
of ice on the area followed by 20 minutes of ice off the area for two-hour periods at
least twice a day for the first 72 hours for mild injuries.
A Compression wrap helps reduce swelling and creates
stability for the injured area. The wrap should be worn during
periods of activity--preferably following ice application and
elevation. (The wrap should not be worn while sleeping.) Wrap the
injured area (not too tightly) from the farthest point of the injured
area and gently progress toward the heart.
Elevating the injured area above the heart helps reduce
pain, swelling, and bruising by draining fluids from the swollen
area. The injured area should be elevated while "icing" it and
before you wrap it.
When to use heat: If you have an area that has a cold,
tight, pulling feeling, heat will be helpful. This type of pain
usually comes from old injuries that did not heal properly and "take
a little time to loosen up" in the mornings.