Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation…or Time to See a Physician
Whether you are an elite athlete, exercise enthusiast or a ‘weekend warrior’, injuries happen. Ankles sprain, hamstrings strain, knees twist and toes get stubbed. How do you know when it’s time to see a physician or visit an emergency room? For some injuries, the simple RICE method is more than acceptable. Here are some rules to follow when deciding whether or not you should seek the care of a physician.
What is the RICE method? RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. When you become injured, you should rest your injury (especially if it is an injury to a lower extremity) for as much as possible for the first 24-48 hours. You should also apply ice to the injured area for 15-20 minutes at a time, three to four times per day. Be sure to wrap the ice in a towel and do not apply the ice directly to your skin. Additionally, you should elevate the affected area above heart level for as much as possible for the first day or two following an injury. This is beneficial in helping to reduce swelling. You can also opt to apply a light compression bandage to the affected area to help minimize swelling.
Do you need to run to the doctor for every ache or pain you experience? Here’s a good rule to follow: listen to your body. If you are an avid runner and experience knee pain from time-to-time, take a break. Use the RICE method and see if your symptoms improve on their own. Know your body and know how long it takes you to recover after a strenuous workout. For injuries such as a twisted ankle, if the pain is still severe after three to four days or you see no improvement, visit with a doctor.
When should you skip the RICE method and head straight for medical care? These symptoms require immediate medical treatment: inability to walk, excruciating pain, broken skin or laceration, a bone breaking through the skin, extreme swelling, fever, or the skin surrounding your injury is red or hot to touch.
The most important rule to follow is to know your own body and pay close attention to the signals it is sending you!