Struggling with injury? Unsure what to do when it happens?

What do you do when you injure yourself? Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation is synonymous with the management of acute injuries. This commonly known term of R.I.C.E, reduces swelling and decreases pain within the first 72 hours post-incident, but is it optimal for recovery in the long run?
One aspect of the R.I.C.E procedure is often over utilised – Rest. Eliasson et al (2009) conducted a study on mice where they looked at the effect of controlled loading on tendon rehabilitation at three, eight, fourteen and twenty-one days. What they found was an increase in length, power output, and tendon thickness at the eight-day mark, although length saw a slight decrease at twenty-one days compared to unloaded subjects.

What this study shows, is that movement and loading through an injured area is not always a bad thing. With this in mind, the R.I.C.E acronym may be accompanied with protection & optimal loading – Protection, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression and Elevation or simply, P.O.L.I.C.E.

Protection – Unloading the area in the initial 72 hours is important, after this gentle movements should begin. Maintaining protection is necessary, so use the assistance of crutches or similar devices if needed: e.g. to reduce the load on an ankle sprain, weight bearing should be minimised.

Optimal Loading – Under the guidance of your physical therapist, you should start to put the affected area through passive range of motion (movement of a joint that is moved by the therapist with no effort of the patient), active range of motion (movement of a joint that is lead and controlled by the patient), and finally resistance exercises using resistance bands, weights or even using your own body weight for leg injuries: e.g. squats or lunges.

Ice – Reduces swelling and pain in the initial 72 hours post-injury and throughout the rehabilitation process.

Compression – Compression bandages or elastic adhesive bandages provide support to the area and reduce swelling.

Elevation – Elevation of the affected area should be above the level of the heart relative to your position.

This is a general guide to help manage the injury during the acute phase. You should always seek the advice of your physical therapist on the best ways to proceed with rehabilitation in order to return to normal activity.