Let me preface this by saying I am not a doctor and that this article is not for use as a substitution for medical diagnosis.
That being said….
I get a dozen or so emails a week on what to do for a sprained ankle, pulled muscle, joint pain and numerous other bumps, bruises and injuries suffered by weekend warriors.
The best protocol to help minimize the pain, swelling, discomfort etc…. of recent injuries such as joint pain, muscle pain, pulled muscles, sprained ankles (or other joints) is to use what is known as R.I.C.E. for the first 48 hours or until you can see your doctor, athletic trainer, physical therapist etc….
The Mnemonic phrase R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
In the event that you are to suffer a sprained ankle, pulled muscle or joint pain, you want to make sure to “Rest” the affected area, meaning you want to stay off of it, lay down or sit down etc…. The next step is to get “Ice” on the affected area as soon as possible (NO HEAT FOR THE FIRST 48 HOURS). The reason for this is that Ice will constrict the blood vessels and help to reduce any swelling that might occur in the injured area. If heat is applied within the first 48 hours, it dilates the blood vessels and will therefore increase the blood flow to the area and cause more swelling, which is not what you want. Once the “Ice” has been applied you want to get some compression on the area. This “compression” could be in the form of an ACE bandage that is wrapped around the ice, or in the even it is a sprained ankle, wrist or knee there are special braces or apparatuses that are made to both ice and compress specific areas. This compression in conjunction with the ice will help to limit the swelling even more. The final step is to elevate the injured area (above the level of the heart) if possible. This again is to help decrease the amount of blood flow to the affected area thus limiting the amount of swelling and decrease in mobility. You want to R.I.C.E. for 20 minutes and take everything off for 40 minutes. Do this as many hours as possible during the first 48 hours of the injury.
After the first 48 hours (within this time you should have seen your physician, athletic trainer or physical therapist) they will more than likely put your on a contrast bathing type of protocol. This consists of 20 minutes of ice followed by 20 minutes of heat, followed by 20 minutes of ice and 20 minutes of heat for an hour or two as possible.
by Brandon Trowbridge