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RICE for acute injuries

If you are to pick up an acute muscular or joint injury during training, general exercise or competition, it is crucial you manage it correctly. The main protocols you should follow are RICE or PRICE. Both PRICE and RICE are the same, however PRICE have added the additional "P'" which means protection.

This protocol should be the first thing you do as it is particularly helpful when applied in the first 24 hours to 72 hours of getting injured. Below is the protocol:

P - Protect. When you pick up an injury, it is important to protect the injury. For example, if you are to pick up a leg injury, the protection aspect could be limiting or avoiding any weight-bearing, by using a crutch or by immobilising the joint/area by using a sling, brace or splint.

R - Rest. Resting an injury is crucial for the healing phase. This phase is also known as "optimal loading" or "relative rest". This simply means that "rest' does not necessary have to mean doing nothing at all. Studies have shown that doing gentle, pain free range of motion movements can aid the recovery phase. If we were to completely rest and immobilise a joint completely, it will become stiff, reducing our range on motion, impacting the health of the joint. It is important that you do not do any movements that will inflict pain to the injured area or do anything that will aggravate and compromise the healing.

I - Ice. Icing an injury, also known as cryotherapy is used to help reduce the pain and swelling. It is very easy to ice an injury at home. You can use a bag of ice or peas on the area. When you are icing an injury, you must not place the ice directly on the skin. This is to avoid any skin burns and nerve damage. When applying ice, make sure to wrap it in a cloth or tissue. Ice should be applied to the area for a period of 10 to 15 minutes before removing for 1 to 2 hours before reapplying and repeating the cycle a few times throughout the day.

Some people do not react to ice treatment well. If the skin becomes red, mottled and raised, remove the ice and do not reapply. This could be due to skin sensitivity or cold allegories. Redness, however normally occurs in everyone, however it should resolve in a few minutes once the pack is removed.

C - Compression. Compression is used to help minimise and control swelling, whilst also offering stabilising support to the injured area. Bandages can be used on an injury, but will benefit the most if it was applied correctly. This is done by applying the bandage directly onto the skin, starting from below the injury, if possible. Apply the bandage in a figure of eight making sure there is a medium amount of tension on it. If the bandage is on too tight, the individual will experience swelling/skin colour change above or below the bandage as the blood flow is effected or tingling and/or numbness, but if the bandage is too loose, it will be ineffective.

E - Elevation. The aim of elevation is to manage / help reduce the swelling and blood pooling within the area. Managing this can help speed up the healing phase, but it will help with pain levels and maintain good range of motion. To elevate the injury, it should be above your heart level. If you have a shoulder injury for example, it will always be elevated until you lie down. You can prop yourself up with pillows when lying down. The this aspect of the protocol is usually most effective in the first 24 to 48 hours. Arm, hand, leg and foot injuries can also all be propped up when lying down.

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