RICE Therapy: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation - medical acronym

RICE Therapy (R.I.C.E.) is one of the most common methods for immediate injury treatment, recommended to reduce significant symptoms you have following an injury. If you sustain an injury, one of the first thoughts you will have is, “what do I do?” It can be hard to know what to do depending on the injury.  RICE therapy is a great place to start. R.I.C.E. stands for “Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.” There is a specific way to do this that we can help you with. Some injuries will require immediate medical attention, whereas other injuries will require specific home care, such as the R.I.C.E. protocol. Find out what this means and what you should do both short-term and long-term for your injury healing!

Understanding RICE Therapy

RICE therapy is a known and trusted therapeutic treatment method for acute musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains and strains. It helps with the management of injuries by reducing inflammation, swelling and pain.

When administered soon after the injury, you can shorten your recovery time.  You can also benefit from decreased pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, swelling and tissue damage. The four parts of RICE therapy can be done together, separately or in any combination.


While it may be difficult to practice the self-discipline necessary to rest after an injury, it is so important to safeguard yourself from more serious injuries. Rest allows you to heal so you can return to what you love to do more quickly.

It is important to note that rest does not mean that you should keep an area completely inactive.  You still want to preserve as much strength and mobility of the affected soft tissues as you can. Movement also helps decrease swelling. What you have to consider, are the loads you are requiring your body to maintain when you are healing tissues.  One of our experienced staff members at Spine Correction Center can help you determine an appropriate amount of stress the tissues can handle to promote a faster recovery.


Ice plays a role in healing because the cold stimulates vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the area being iced. This aids in reducing swelling and inflammation by restricting the amount of fluid able to enter into the soft tissue at the injury site. Ice also helps numb the affected area resulting in less pain.  

How you apply ice is important for effective, safe therapy.  Ice should be applied to the injury site for 15-20 minutes, every couple of hours in the first forty-eight hours after the injury occured. Wrap ice in a damp towel or cloth to prevent superficial nerve or skin damage caused by overexposure to the ice.

When Should You Use Heat?

Some patients get confused about when to apply heat to an injury and when to apply ice. Ice should be used initially to reduce the inflammatory reaction following an acute injury. After 72 hours, the major benefits you received from icing will decrease and the effects of heat will out weight the effects of ice. Heat will promote increased circulation, help relax muscle tension and reduce joint stiffness. Heat also helps to prepare tissues for rehabilitation.


Compression of the injured area not only protects the joint and guards the injury site, but also aids in reducing swelling. Ace bandages, a brace, a compression sock, or tape can be used for effective compression.

Again, when it comes to compression, you don’t want to restrict blood circulation by having the site wrapped too tightly.  Decreased blood flow can cause a whole range of other problems. When wrapping, make sure to allow for expansion due to swelling. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage.


When you talk about elevating an injured site, the goal is to get it to a level above your heart.  This allows gravity to drain the excess fluid from around the injured tissue back to the central circulation and decrease your swelling. Relieving the pressure around the injured area will lessen your pain and also allow cellular waste products to move towards the heart helping promote tissue recovery by restarting cellular homeostasis.

Stretch and Return to Activity Carefully

When your soreness and pain are gone, begin stretching and strengthening exercises slowly, then gradually increase these exercises. A member of our team can help design a safe return to exercise plan to keep you moving, but not moving quicker than you should!

Get On Top of Your Pain Today!

If you have suffered from a recent injury, don’t hesitate to benefit from a free consultation at the Spine Correction Center of the Rockies. Superbly trained chiropractors and medical personnel are ready to support you with an individual treatment strategy that incorporates non-invasive, drug-free therapies, correction of issues and professional nutritional and lifestyle advice to facilitate healing.

Call now for a FREE Consultation, (970) 658-5115. Consultations can be done online, via the phone, or in person.