How to Use RICE Therapy

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

March is Red Cross month, so it’s dedicated to celebrating and supporting this incredible organization that helps people around the world deal with pain and health crises. Most people celebrate the Red Cross this month by donating blood or volunteering. If you’re not able to donate blood or time, though, you can still honor the spirit of the organization by learning first aid skills, like RICE therapy.

RICE therapy is a form of first aid that addresses sudden, accidental injuries, like ankle sprains, right after they happen. RICE is actually an acronym. It stands for “rest, ice, compress, and elevate.” These are the four steps of therapy to address a limb that’s suffering from swelling and inflammation after an injury. If used in the first 24-48 hours after you hurt your foot or ankle, it can significantly improve your limb’s ability to heal well.

Here’s how you use it:

  • Rest – This gives you time to recover. Stop whatever you’re doing that caused the injury and remove as much weight from the foot as you can. This means no sports or other hard-impact activities until your lower limbs are pain-free again. In severe cases, you might have to use crutches to avoid putting any weight on the foot at all.
  • Ice – This reduces swelling. Apply ice packs wrapped in a towel (or other cloth covering) directly on the injured foot as soon as possible. Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes, then give your foot at least as much time to return to room-temperature. Repeat this throughout the day for a couple days following the injury.
  • Compress – This limits swelling in the affected limb as well as adds a little extra support. Wrap an elastic compression bandage around your foot or ankle. It should secure your limb, but not be too tight.
  • Elevate – This prevents the fluids that cause swelling from pooling in your foot. Prop your foot up on cushions so it’s parallel to the ground. This works best if you can get your limb above the level of your heart.

RICE therapy is an excellent first aid, though it doesn’t replace other injury treatments. If you’ve hurt your foot, make sure you get complete care beyond first aid. Parker Foot & Ankle can help with this. Call (281) 497-2850 to make an appointment at our Houston office.

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