The RICE method is an effective first response to a sprain. It’s recommended by sports trainers, paramedics, and doctors to relieve much of the initial swelling and prevent additional swelling and pain. As a long-term therapy for sprains, however, it just isn’t enough.
RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. These are the four steps to immediately dealing with the injury. They are undeniably effective as a first response, but they don’t deal with the injury over an extended period of time or accelerate the healing process. In fact, if the injury isn’t properly dealt with, it could become a chronic condition.
There are a few simple things that you can do at home to help the healing process along, though.
Hot/Cold Alternations – Most of the pain and stiffness of a sprain is caused by the swelling as the damaged joint leaks blood and synovial fluid into the surrounding area. But by alternating hot and cold placed on the area, you will help stimulate the local blood vessels to clear out the excess fluid.
This is best done with hot and cold water. Water works better than ice packs or hot compresses because it completely surround the injury. The hot water should be as hot as you can stand, but not hot enough to scald or burn. The cold water should be ice cold. Place the injury in each temperature for one or two minutes and then alternate the temperature. Do this 5 to 10 times.
Massage – This is especially effective after the hot/cold therapy when the swelling is already going down. Massage the damaged joint and the surrounding area, making sure the strokes move TOWARD the heart. Use some massage oil if it’s handy, or castor oil as it has some clinicially proven healing properties. Don’t massage until there is pain, but some stiffness and soreness are normal.
Physical Therapy – Either at home with rehabilitation exercises or with a professional physiotherapist, this is an essential part of a complete recovery. It’s possible that the damage to the joint left some of the bones out of alignment. It’s also common for scar tissue to form during the healing process, restricting mobility and causing chronic pain in the joint. Physical therapy helps correct both problems, as well as promoting the healing of nerves and muscle fibers around the injury.
These are only three of the possible therapies to help the injury heal. Just remember to always check with your doctor before starting any new therapy for your injury. Incorrect rehabilitation could result in further injury.