Whether you’re a professional athlete, a marathon runner, or simply someone who enjoys casually playing sports with friends, injury is bound to occur. Often, an athlete’s natural reaction to injury is to “rub some dirt on it”, walk it off and get back in the game. Unfortunately, that instinct to keep going is really not in your best interest. In fact, it can take you out of the game quicker in the long run, if a proper remedy is not utilized.
The most common injuries are “soft tissue injuries,” meaning there are no broken bones or dislocated joints. But soft tissue injuries can still be a painful nuisance. With these types of injuries, a treatment called the RICE method (or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is your best bet for a full and speedy recovery.
Follow these four steps and you’ll be back in action in no time.
Rest If you hurt your leg, it might be obvious advice to stay off that leg as much as possible. But rest is a crucial component to repairing the body. Without resting the affected area, there will be continual strain on the injury, which can lead to ongoing pain, inflammation and possibly further injury. Professional athletes sit out a game or two when they hurt themselves, and so should you. After all, wouldn’t it be better to come back with full strength instead of of playing at a lesser level while injured? Be sure to rest as long as it takes to restore function to the affected area.
Ice Using ice is the best way to reduce swelling and pain. A good rule of thumb is to ice the injury 20 minutes per hour. Be careful though: applying ice directly to the skin can cause ice burn, blistering and even frostbite. Make sure to wrap some sort of towel around the ice pack before applying. You should also be sure not to over-ice, as that can actually delay the healing process.
Icing is the most valuable method of healing sports injuries, so don’t skip it!
Compression As the injury can cause your capillaries to bleed, counter-pressure is the best way to keep the swelling from intensifying. To keep proper compression, you’ll need an elastic bandage or compression stockings. Ice should still be in the mix at this point as well. Make sure not to apply too much pressure, as that will cut off the blood supply. If your limb goes numb, you’ll know you’re pushing too hard.
Elevation As your blood pressure reduces with height, you should be sure to keep the injured limb above the level of your heart to reduce blood pressure in that area. Less pressure will reduce force within the damaged blood vessels and lessen the bleeding. Whenever you can elevate, do so.
The RICE method is the way to deal with soft tissue injuries, especially when safely paired with anti-inflammatory medicine. By following these for easy steps, you’ll be off the couch and back at the gym in no time.