How can I treat minor sports injuries?

The simple answer, depending on the injury, is summarized by the acronym RICE.
  • Rest: Decrease activity, and no weight should be applied to the injury.
  • Ice: Apply ice to reduce pain and swelling. Apply in 20-minute periods to avoid ice burn or frostbite.
  • Compression: Light compression that allows for swelling. If it gets too tight or causes swelling around the wrap, loosen it.
  • Elevation: Keep the injury above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.
To treat minor sports injuries remember the RICE acronym. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Give the injury sufficient rest, and use ice, compression, and elevation of the injured area above the heart to control any swelling and pain you may have.

For most minor sprains and strains you can use a technique called R.I.C.E. 

This applies:

  • Rest--take even a short amount of time to take it easy, not do the activity that caused the injury and let it heal.
  • Ice--ice from your freezer works just fine.  Apply for approximately 20 minutes to areas such as thigh or less timr for wrists and hands.  You will feel 4 stages of cold with ice: cold, burn, ache and then numbness.
  • Compression--usually in the form of an ace wrap.
  • Elevation--if swelling or bleeding occur, keep that area elevated above the heart.

If this doesn't seem to help or your symptoms get worse, never hesitate to get further attention. 

Aaron Nelson
Sports Medicine
Minor sports injuries can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression and/or eleveation. If there is swelling, a combination of all four is the best course of treatment. If there is only pain, rest and ice is the best course of treatment. OTC(over the counter) medicines such as Tylenol(for pain) or Advil, Aleve, Motrin(for pain and inflammation) can also be used and should only be taken as directed by the packaging or by your physician. If there are any abnormal bumps, swelling and/or deformities, see your physician right away as you may be able to keep a minor injury from becoming a more serious injury.
Dr. William Levine, chief of sports medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, and Dr. Anil S. Ranawat, clinical instructor of orthopedic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and assistant attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, recommend R.I.C.E., a first-aid technique that can be applied to most sprains, strains and joint injuries.
  • Rest: If you are injured during any activity, stop the activity immediately and rest the injured area. Do not try to work through the pain.
  • Ice: For the first 24 to 48 hours apply ice packs to the injured area every two hours for 15 minutes. Make sure that the ice is not in direct contact with the skin; a cotton handkerchief covering is helpful.
  • Compress: Bandage the area firmly, extending the wrapping above and below the injury. This pressure will stop any bleeding and reduce any swelling in the injured area.
  • Elevate: Whenever possible, elevate the injured area above the level of your heart. Elevation and compression are typically used for acute injuries such as a twisted ankle.
Once an injury has occurred you should always consult a physician to ensure proper rehabilitation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.