The RICE Routine for Athletic Injuries

The standard first-aid routine for most strains, sprains, and pulls caused by overuse during exercise is RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If you think your injury may be serious, or if it does not heal after using the RICE routine for several days, see your doctor.

Rest: Stop exercising immediately. Don't put any weight on the affected area for 24 hours.

Ice: Apply an ice pack to the affected area to reduce swelling. (Place the ice in a seal-able plastic bag and wrap it in a towel.) Reapply ice for 20 minutes every hour during the first 24 to 48 hours while you're awake.

Compression: Wrap an elastic bandage around the area, being careful not to wrap it so tightly as to interfere with blood flow. Compression also helps control swelling.

Elevation: Raise the affected joint or limb higher than your heart so that gravity can help prevent blood and other body fluids from collecting at the injury site.

You can take an over-the-counter painkiller such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibupro-fen. Aspirin and ibuprofen also help reduce inflammation. After 1 or 2 days of RICE, begin gently stretching the affected area. Don't stretch to the point at which it becomes painful, or you could damage the muscle again. Your doctor or a physical therapist can recommend simple exercises tailored to the specific injury to help you regain strength.

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