Strains and sprains will very often sort themselves out on their own with time, but this doesn’t mean that some basic first aid measures shouldn’t be applied. A very simple procedure called RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation, can be performed by anyone. When this procedure is initiated quickly after an injury, it can help to both relieve pain and to reduce the swelling. This swelling is caused by fluid collecting in the area of the injury, and the pain can become worse if the extra fluid is excessive enough. Following the RICE treatment as early as possible can help cut down the recovery time and reduce the pain.
Rest the injured area as much as possible, especially in the first twenty-four hours. Any activities that cause pain should be avoided, whether that means taking a break from sport or simply getting up and moving around as little as possible without making the pain worse. Not only will resting help to avoid making the pain worse, but it will give the body the energy to concentrate on healing the injured area.
Icing the affected area will help to reduce or prevent swelling, which can slow down the healing process. In order to get the best benefits from icing, never keep ice on the injury for more than twenty minutes at a time, and always take significant breaks between icing sessions. Cold packs and bags of crushed ice work well, but many people find bags of frozen peas or corn to be very effective, as they easily mould themselves around the injured area and can also be refrozen and used again.
Compression, or wrapping an elastic bandage around the injured area, can also help prevent swelling and provide minor relief from pain. The bandage should never be so tight as to cut off circulation. If the patient feels throbbing or too much pressure, the bandage should be loosened. The best course of action is to remove the bandage and reapply it every four hours.
Elevation is another effective method of reducing swelling. This is most effective when the affected area can be elevated above the level of the heart. Elevation is most easily done by lying down and propping up the injured area with plenty of pillows.
If the pain and swelling is still persistent after forty-eight hours, the patient should definitely seek medical advice. Most people will start to find relief after the first twenty-four hours and should be able to slowly get back into their normal activities. However, RICE treatment is not for everyone. Those that suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome (which affects the small blood vessels), diabetes, a strong sensitivity to cold or have any reduced blood flow problems should avoid RICE treatment and seek the advice of a doctor as soon as possible.