Is Rest & Ice the Best Treatment for a Joint or Muscle Injury

Uncategorized Nov 08, 2016

To RICE or not to RICE?

Icing a sprained ankleHere's a quick guide to how to self treat an acute injury. ('Acute' just means the injury is new as opposed to 'chronic' which means you've had it for months or longer.)Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation (R.I.C.E) - is the most common advice, but is this best & if it is what does this actually mean you should do.Rest Definitely important especially if it's an injury to the limb, but the closer the injury is to the spine the more important it will be to move that area. So for an injury to the ankle rest it as much as possible. For an injury in the low back say in the muscles in your flank, rest would mean not doing movements that caused a lot of pain - but gentle movments & stretching that caused no pain or just a little will speed your recovery. This would also be true for an injury close to the spine, even for a disc injury, gentle movement which doesn't cause pain will start to re-establish normal movement in that area & help drain inflamation from that area.


This can be applied via an ice pack, bag of frozen peas or even a cold can of coke if that's all you've got. Chilling the area will not only help with pain relief but it will also drive blood away from the injured area, this will take down the inflammation in the area which will help with recovery. Also when you take the ice off the area fresh blood will rush back into the area which will accelerate the healing process. This process of forcing blood away & then back to the injured site is vital for vastly reducing recovery times. So the formula for icing is 10 minutes on & 10 minutes off for as long as your patience will stand. However, don't apply directly to the skin as you will give yourself an ice burn, and don't push the pain levels - when it hurts from the cold take it off - don't give yourself frost bite! Often people will ask about applying heat to an area - with an acute injury there is a lot of heat there already so no to heat with the following exceptions: 1. If its an injury to or around the back ice will be less effective than for a limb injury especially if it a back in 'spasm' - instead a hot bath can be effective to loosen you up. 2. People with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) don't do well with cold, this can also be true for people with other long term 'systemic' or rheumatoid conditions.


This means bind the area with a bandage, this helps protect & rest the injury & also helps prevent too much inflamation which would prevent fresh blood getting into the injured area. It is only effective for an injury to a limb muscle or joint.


This means getting the injured area higher than its normal position- this is again only effective for the limbs, so put your leg up on a chair or arm on a table with a few pillows under it. Again it helps blood circulation. Elevation is not relevent for a back injury - for a low back injury often the best position is to lie on your back on the floor, pillow under the head & pillows under the knees in order to keep the knees bent to about 45 degrees. Back injuries are a full topic in themselves so I will write a seperate article for this.

Disclaimer !!

The above is all excellent advice tested over 15 years treating patients but unfortunately as a registered osteopath I am bound by rules & regulations & in case you swallow the soap & choke while taking a hot bath after reading this article I have to tell you that this article does not constitute medical advice. Equally if you believe you have more than a simple injury please see a qualified health professional. Best Regards - Jonathan Evans

Jonathan is a Gold Coast osteopath, who treats at ION Osteopaths in Nerang, Gold Coast

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