R.I.C.E. Your way back into exercise! - May 4th, 2010

Even though we all try to exercise with correct form and not ever get injured, sometimes life happens and we end up injuring our back, shoulder, ankle etc.  Many times these injuries don’t happen in the gym but when you are playing basketball with your kids or landscaping the yard.  These injuries can provide a significant setback in your workout programs.  Tissue healing takes an average of 4-6 weeks.  So, one of the first things you need to do is back off a little bit if you want to heal faster.  For many avid exercises, the habitually addicted (a.k.a. Runners), this is a very hard concept.  They push and push and push harder and think that if you continue to push, it will heal and feel better.  Injury is not often an issue of mental weakness.  So next time you have injury, try applying the method of R.I.C.E.

  • REST – Take a break form the activity that is bothering you.  If you are a runner, try getting on a bike or swimming some laps.  If your shoulder hurts when you do overhead movement, avoid doing that movement for a while.  Rest doesn’t always mean that you should do nothing, but rather try something different and give the injured area a break.
  • ICE – With injury comes inflammation.  Applying ice to the injured area will help “cool” that inflammation and help your body get rid of it.  The longer you have inflammation in your body, the harder it will be for your body to heal.   In the sports medicine world we recommend that you ice about 20 minutes with a bag of ice (ice cubes or crushed ice in a zip lock bag) directly on the skin.  The exceptions are when you have a circulation issues thus icing is contraindicated or if you are icing an area like the elbows, wrists, or fingers which would get cold faster.  If this is the case, then you can try icing for about 10 minutes instead.
  • COMPRESSION – Putting a wrap or brace of some kind onto your injured area will not only help it feel better, but the light compression will help your body also rid itself of that inflammation.  Using the wraps or braces in a sense is “hugging” the injury to help it heal.  It also gives you a sense of awareness so you don’t forget what is going on and try to do something you shouldn’t.  A note of caution:  go easy on the compression.  Don’t make it too tight.  If you start turning blue or get tingling in your fingers or toes, then you need to back off a little and wrap it lightly.
  • ELEVATION – Especially when your injury is brand new, elevation is a keep principle that will also help reduce immediate inflammation and swelling.   Gravity pulls on that swelling and can cause the swelling to pool in certain areas.  For example, if you injured your ankle, it is a great idea to apply the other principles of R.I.C.E. while also elevating that ankle above or at heart level.

If you have a basic sprain or strain, the R.I.C.E. principle should help.  If you notice extreme pain or other responses that concern you, please see your doctor.

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