What Is the RICE Method of Injury Treatment?
Nov 1, 2021 By Lael Miller
RICE is an acronym that means rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It is the long-standing treatment recommended immediately after a musculoskeletal injury, such as an ankle sprain. This article will dive into each component of the RICE method and how a product such as Ice Barrel can aid in the healing process.
The RICE Method Broken Down and Explained
The four components of the RICE method are explained in detail below as to why each is necessary and the benefit that component has on healing.
Using the example of an ankle sprain, the injury cannot heal properly without staying off the foot for a few days so as not to make it worse. Rest is vital to healing. It will take much longer for any injury to heal if you do not consciously pay attention to getting the proper amount of rest of the injured area.
You may feel apprehensive about staying off your feet for a few days, but the alternative could be costly. Your injury may get worse, and it will require even more time off your feet.
That being said, being completely inactive may not be necessary. Using our example of an ankle sprain, swimming will reduce the strain on the ankle while still challenging your muscles and cardiovascular system. Or, you can focus on working out your upper body and abs. Also, breathing exercises can be quite a workout. Conscious diaphragmatic breathing will strengthen your abdomen and have a relaxing effect.
How to do diaphragmatic breathing:
- Place one hand on the chest and the other on the belly.
- Inhale through the nose while gently pushing the abdomen out. The hand on the belly moves outward.
- Exhale slowly through pursed lips (make your lips in the shape of an ‘O”) while gently pushing inward and upward with the hand on the belly.
- Then slowly inhale again, filling the lungs with air, and repeat.
- Hold each phase of the breath for four seconds (inhale for four seconds, then after inhaling, hold the breath in for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, then after exhaling, hold for four seconds before inhaling again.)
Ice applied to the area immediately after injury and a few times a day thereafter will cause a decrease in swelling and pain. Cold temperatures lead to a vasoconstriction of the blood vessels, allowing fewer inflammatory markers to access the area. A certain amount of inflammation is a good and necessary effect of the healing process, but it should be tempered and kept to a moderate level rather than be allowed to progress indefinitely. This might happen if no ice was applied.
Ice should be applied for 15 minutes for each session with at least 30 minutes between sessions, two to three times per day, as prescribed by your physician.
Immersing the entire area of the injury via cold water immersion/ice baths is superior to the local application of an ice pack and may decrease levels of pain more effectively.
Compression will also help to mitigate blood flow and inflammatory markers to the area. This will decrease swelling. And again, we’re not saying that inflammation needs to be abolished because a certain amount is necessary for healing. But it needs to be kept in check.
Just by being in the water, compression will be exerted on your injury. Using Ice Barrel will be a one-two punch for edema management in combining the effect of ice and compression from the water.
The key to elevation is to raise the injured area above the level of your heart, if possible. The reason for this is to use gravity as an assist for your circulatory system. This will encourage blood and other fluids to naturally flow downward. This will help the blood vessels not work as hard to get the blood and other fluid back into circulation and into the heart, where it is filtered and cleaned. With a sprained ankle, try to elevate it by laying down on a couch and resting your foot on a few pillows.
You may be wondering how an ice bath could help here. It may not be possible to elevate the injured area during your time in an ice bath.
It has been shown that the temperature of an injured area of the body that was entirely immersed using cold-water immersion treatment stayed cooler longer for up to 90 minutes. This suggests that cold-water immersion would limit the amount of secondary cell injury in comparison to only using an ice pack alone on the injured area. “Cooler intramuscular temperatures may reduce cellular metabolism and secondary hypoxic injury to attenuate acute injury response, specifically the rate of chemical mediator activity.”
So, elevating the injury after you immerse it in an ice bath is great for healing, and the tissues will stay cold even after the direct application of cold.
Ice Baths May Play a Role in Helping Acute Injury Recovery
Ice Barrel can aid in all four components of RICE for injury.
- Rest – you will be resting during your time in an ice bath. Engaging in an ice bath can make rest more effective, relaxing you by stimulating the vagus nerve: the secret to well-being.
- Ice – this one is self-explanatory. Immersing the entire area or injury or whole body is better than the small area of injury alone.
- Compression – the hydrostatic pressure of the water exerts an edema-managing compressive effect.
- Elevation – Engaging in an ice bath keeps your tissues cooler for longer than applying an ice pack alone, so you can elevate the area after your ice bath without worrying about no longer getting the benefits of cold water immersion for your injury.
Ice Barrel can help relieve pain and edema following an acute musculoskeletal injury and is a great modality to have in your home that is cost-effective and convenient.
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