If you’ve ever hurt your ankle or had another type of sprain or strain, chances are your doctor recommended rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) as one of your first treatments. The RICE method is a simple self-care technique that helps reduce swelling, ease pain, and speed up healing.
You can treat minor injuries with the RICE method at home. You might try it if you have an achy knee, ankle, or wrist after playing sports. If you have pain or swelling that gets worse or doesn’t go away, see a doctor.
The RICE method includes the following four steps:
Step 1: Rest
Pain is your body’s signal that something is wrong. As soon as you’re hurt, stop your activity, and rest as much as possible for the first 2 days. Don’t try to follow the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. Doing so with certain injuries, like a moderate to severe ankle sprain, can make the damage worse and delay your recovery. Doctors say you should avoid putting weight on the injured area for 24 to 48 hours. Resting also helps prevent further bruising.
Step 2: Ice
Ice is a tried-and-true tool for reducing pain and swelling. Apply an ice pack (covered with a light, absorbent towel to help prevent frostbite) for 10 minutes, then remove for 10 minutes. Repeat this as often as possible for the first 24 to 48 hours after your injury. Don’t have an ice pack? A bag of frozen peas or corn will work just fine.
Step 3: Compression
This means wrapping the injured area to prevent swelling. Wrap the affected area with an elastic medical bandage (like an ACE bandage). You want it to be snug but not too tight -- if it’s too tight, it’ll interrupt blood flow. If the skin below the wrap turns blue or feels cold, numb, or tingly, loosen the bandage. If these symptoms don’t disappear right away, seek immediate medical help.
Step 4: Elevation
This means raising the sore body part above the level of your heart. Doing so reduces pain, throbbing, and any internal bleeding that can lead to bruises. It’s not as tricky to do as you might think. For example, if you have an ankle sprain, you can prop your leg up on pillows while sitting on the sofa. The CDC recommends you keep the injured area raised whenever possible, even when you’re not icing it.
Treatments Used With RICE
Your doctor may suggest using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen or naproxen) along with the RICE treatment. These are available over the counter and by prescription. Talk to your doctor about your health history before taking these medications.