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How to Apply the RICE Method to a Sprain or Strain

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If you've either sprained or strained part of your body, you've probably been advised to follow the 'RICE' method – rest, ice, compress, elevate. Of course, you should always consult a doctor if the injury is serious, but most light sprains and strains can be treated effectively using the RICE method.

Here's everything which you need to know.


For some reason, many people feel most inclined to move around when they can't do so without hurting themselves. Whatever the reason for this little oddity, it's something which should be avoided. For at least the first 24-48 hours after injury, avoid using the extremity as much as possible.

After this point, you can gradually begin to use it in the same way, but you'll need to prevent placing it under any undue strain, and stop immediately if experiencing severe pain rather than discomfort. Depending on the problem, you may need to use a splint, sling, or pair of crutches in order to move around while still resting the injured body part.


The first 48 hours after an injury occurs are the most important, so you'll want to apply ice in order to prevent further swelling. Ice the sprain or strain every 3-4 hours for around 20 minutes. Never use ice for more than 20 minutes – this can actually begin to cause further damage.

You'll also want to avoid applying ice directly to the skin. Instead, you should make an ice pack. Most people simply use a bag of frozen vegetables; this will work fine, but just remember to throw them out after you're done since continuous thawing and refreezing might have made them unsafe to eat.


A compression wrap will also help decrease swelling. You can make one yourself, but it's often easier – if possible – to have someone pick you up an appropriate one from a drugstore. Simply wrap it around the extremity, but remember not to make it too tight. Compression wraps should be snug, but not constrictive. Reapply it if your fingers or toes become cold or tingly.

You can also pick up a protective brace to keep the affected area from moving too much. This will help prevent further injury, though it is not usually necessary for lighter sprains and strains.


Finally, you'll want to elevate the injured body part. This means keeping it higher than your heart. Try to prop your hand or foot up on pillows, especially when you're sleeping. This drains fluid away from the injury, and helps improve your recovery time.

Remember, if your sprain or strain is extremely painful 24 hours after the injury was caused, you should always seek attention at a medical centre. Poorly treated injuries may result in a lifetime of discomfort. However, the RICE method will still hold you in good stead for less serious hurts.