Everything You Need to Know about the RICE Method for First Aid in Running Injuries
Running injuries have varying degrees of severity. In many cases, you can help yourself heal by acting quickly after you feel pain and discomfort while you are running. Both doctors and physical therapists agree that knowing what to do in the first moments after you suffer the injury makes all the difference in the treatment and recovery plans.
So, today we will discuss how to apply the first aid correctly, and improve your chances at healing faster and getting back on track as soon as possible. The most efficient method, successfully tested and proven worldwide, is the RICE method.
We will give you a quick walkthrough for this method, and hopefully we can help you minimise the negative impact of any running injury you may sustain in the future. In short, the RICE method is an acronym which stands for:
This is the first thing you need to do right after you have fallen down or felt a jolt of pain during running. A lot of athletes believe that you can run the pain away, that if you ignore it then it will go away and that the best thing for a sprain is to keep exercising to maintain mobility. These misconceptions are highly damaging to your health.
When you sprain an ankle or pull a muscle too taut, the pain you feel is the outer manifestation of a small tearing in the muscles and ligaments and interior bleeding.
The more you exercise an injured muscle, the worse these tears and bleeding will be. You need to lie down, ask for help, and avoid putting your injured leg down and applying any kind of pressure or weight down on it.
Ice packs are the first type of remedy you can apply, both for the injury and the pain. Ice numbs the pain, and helps reduce swelling and interior bleeding. Ice applications should be continuous for at least 2-3 days. The ideal schedule for icing a running injury is 10- to 20-minute applications every 5-6 hours. You should not keep the ice pack on for more than 20 minutes, because you may suffer from frostbite.
Attention! Never apply the ice pack directly to the skin. Wrap the ice pack in a towel before you put it on your leg.
Compression is the next step towards healing. An elastic bandage will keep the injured area properly compressed in order to stop bleeding completely and limit your involuntary movements which prevent the muscle or ligament from healing.
Compression must not be very tight either, or prevent the adequate flow of blood in the area. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend you the best type of compressive sock or bandage depending on the severity of the injury, and will tell you for how long you have to keep it on.
At this point, if pain is still too close to your intolerance level, you can take ibuprofen or other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicines. Aspirin is not recommended, especially for young athletes under 20.
One of the major dangers in case of interior bleeding is the formation of blood clots. You can prevent that by keeping your injured leg elevated at all times. Use a pillow or a stool, or anything you can find at home to prop up your leg and encourage good blood flow to and from the injured area.
In the end, please remember that RICE is a first aid method and does not replace seeking a physician’s advice. We encourage you to have any kind of running injury properly diagnosed and treated by your doctor and physical therapist.