One of the most used treatments to assist with a sprain or a strain is the “RICE” method. As always, consult a doctor before attempting to do anything yourself if you are not sure of the severity of your strain or sprain. For a sprain or strain that you know is not severe enough to warrant proper medical treatment, the RICE method is explained in the following text.
An injury will heal faster if the person in question rests themselves. If a person with a sprain or strain continues to the use the limb, they pose risk to slowing down their own healing process. Continued use can increase the pain, delay healing, and even worsen the injury. With a very mild sprain though, slight activity (as tolerated pain levels) can actually help to improve the healing process if performed 1 to 2 days after rest.
In the first 48 hours after an injury, the sprain or strain should have ice placed on every 3 to 4 hours and held onto the limb for 20 minutes at a time. There is a popular method that involves filling paper cups with water and then freezing them. Use the cup sort of like an ice cream cone to help it to the injured spot. NEVER keep ice to a strain or sprain for longer than 20 minutes. This will NOT help the injury, and in fact poses risk to injuring the tissue it is touching.
The reason to use ice in this situation is that the cold will provide pain-relief on a short term basis as well as help prevent swelling by lowering the amount of the blood that flows to the injured area. Keep in mind that when applying ice to the skin you should never apply it directly to the flesh. Always have something between the ice and the flesh, whether it is a cloth or a cup. A good rule of thumb is to only apply the ice for 15-to-20 minutes and then not reapply ice until the skin is completely warm again.
Compression should be used in tandem with elevating the strain or sprain in the early stages of treatment. The ideal tool to use for compression is an Ace bandage, which should be wrapped by one-half the width of the wrap in an overlapping fashion to the affected area. The wrap should be placed snuggly, but needs to not pose a threat to cutting off circulation. If the toes or fingers start to become cold, or turn blue, the wrap needs to be re-done looser than it was.
During the first 24 hours, the injured limb needs to be kept above the heart to limit swelling and the risk of internal bleeding. An injury will heal faster the less swelling that is present.
Many sprains and strains will heal after only a day or two of treatment, and if the limb is not feeling better after the second day the patient really needs to be taken to a proper physician. The RICE method is not hard to preform, and can save a costly trip to the emergency room simply by following these steps.