RICE is used after injuries and surgery to help reduce pain and inflammation, as well as initiate the healing process. PRICE stands for:
- Protection - Necessary to prevent re-injury during the healing process.
- Rest - Limiting activity allows the injured area to heal.
- Ice - Using ice will help decrease inflammation and pain.
- Compression - Compression bandages will decrease inflammation and pain.
- Elevation - Elevation of the injured leg decreases inflammation and pain.
Many physicians and educational sources will focus on the R.I.C.E., but it is important to include Protection when regarding foot and ankle injuries. Unless you are extremely talented, our feet are required to get from one place to another. It is very difficult to function throughout a day without applying pressure to your foot; therefore, protecting the foot and ankle are necessary after injury. Protection can come from the use of Crutches, Below Knee Cast, Fracture Boot, Ankle Brace, Surgical Shoe, or Knee-Walker device.
Rest is a pretty straight forward concept, although it is often difficult for people who are used to being busy. It is important to follow your doctor's recommendations for activity level while recovering from an injury or surgery, to prevent any complications that may delay your healing time. Often, periodic exercises, including movement of arms, hips, and knees, are good to stimulate blood flow and prevent blood clots, during recovery.
Ice can work like magic to help reduce pain and inflammation. After an injury, or surgery, the area will often become swollen as the first stage of the healing process. This is caused by an increase in blood flow to the area. The problem with swelling, is that it stretches the tissue and causes compression of the local nerves, leading to significant pain. Ice helps to constrict the blood vessels, allowing a more normal blood flow to the area. Placing ice behind the knee or around the ankle can be helpful when the affected area is covered by a cast or surgical dressing. It is important to only ice an area 15-20 minutes at a time, as overexposure to extreme cold can cause damage to the skin.
Compression works to eliminate and prevent swelling from increased blood flow. While a mild or moderate compression can be very beneficial, too much compression can be painful and potentially dangerous. It is important to follow your doctor's instructions for how much compression is appropriate.
Elevation is a powerful anti-inflammatory for treating leg injuries. Since the legs are usually below the level of the heart, while standing or sitting, gravity works to increase blood flow to an area, but it also can decrease blood flow out of the area, leading to swelling. Elevation recruits the forces of gravity to work in our favor, to reduce swelling and pain. Is is important to elevate your foot close to, or above heart level, using one or more pillows. It is also helpful to place one pillow behind your knee, giving your leg a gentle bend to prevent over-extension of the knee. It is important to make sure your heel is not resting on a firm surface, as this can lead to bed sores.