It’s easy to pull a muscle or sprain a joint. These kinds of injuries may result from simply overdoing everyday activities like gardening or shovelling snow or they can be caused by an accident, like a fall. Use the RICE formula immediately after hurting yourself. You’ll dramatically reduce the time it takes for your injury to heal and get back to your normal routine as quickly as possible.
RICE is an acronym for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
The simplest and most effective thing you can do is rest. Many people try to “work through” the injury in the hopes that it will go away or work itself out. Injuries don’t spontaneously disappear. In fact, excessive movement will damage the tissue further, increasing the amount of inflammation and pain.
Unless the injury is severe, absolute rest should not exceed 48 hours. Otherwise, your muscles will become stiff and weak, and scar tissue around the injury will tighten up. So as soon as the initial pain and swelling subside, you should begin to gently exercise the injured area.
Apply ice immediately. The importance of icing your injury cannot be emphasized enough. Ice is a natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. It slows down blood flow to the area and reduces internal bleeding and swelling. Depending on the type of injury, your healing time may be cut in half.
Simply place ice cubes in a plastic bag. You can also use commercial gel packs that you keep in your freezer or a bag of frozen vegetables (peas seem to work well). You may find that these mold better to your body. Wrap whatever you’re using in a towel or cloth and apply it to the injured area. Leave it on for 10 to 20 minutes and then allow your skin to warm up. As a general rule, don’t leave the ice on for more than 20 minutes because you may cause frostbite. Ice the injury as frequently as possible, preferably at least once every waking hour.
Compression and elevation
Compression and elevation help reduce swelling. You can apply compression to the area with an elastic type bandage. Be careful not to tie the bandage so tightly that you cut off your circulation. If one of your arms or legs is injured, you can elevate the extremity above the heart level.