What is RICE Therapy?
When you injure your feet your first order of business is to decrease your discomfort level. Sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries are often treated first with RICE therapy, or rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This method can not only help with pain, but can prevent excessive swelling from occurring and help your body heal faster.
Rest Your Feet
Most sprains or strains occur from overuse. Athletes and people who are on their feet a lot may sustain these types of injuries more often than someone else. The first part of RICE is to rest your feet. This means that you need to stop doing the activity that may have caused the problem in the first place. If you are unable to bear weight on your feet, then you are not well enough to participate in physical activity. Don’t allow yourself to become completely stagnant, however, as that can lead to more problems with muscle strength. Allow yourself some time to heal, and if you can’t give up exercise consider doing something with less impact. Cycling, swimming, and yoga are some great options.
Apply Ice (and Heat)
The next component is to apply ice to the affected area. This should be one of the first things you do as it will help to reduce any swelling that might occur. After this you should begin to apply the ice 3 times a day in 10-20 minute increments. After three days of this you can begin to apply heat as well. Heat will help prepare the muscles for healing with increased circulation and relaxation. If the swelling is down but you are still feeling pain you can continue to ice your feet for as long as you feel is necessary.
A bit of pressure is needed to immobilize the joint for protection and to reduce swelling. Either a compression stocking or an ACE bandage will do just fine. It is very important to make sure that the bandage is not wrapped too tightly, or it may cut off your circulation, which can lead to many other problems such as nerve damage, pain, and decreased blood flow. If you feel numbness or tingling, you may want to loosen your compression a little.
Lastly, it’s important to elevate your foot to about heart level. A good way to do this is prop it up on some pillows while you are lying in bed. You can apply ice at the same time. Elevating your feet like this will help reduce and prevent swelling by allowing any excess fluid to drain back into the circulatory system instead of having it pool by the injured area. This is also fundamental in reducing the pressure in your injury. Not only will that help you feel less pain, but it will begin to facilitate the transport of cellular waste towards the heart.
If you would like to know more about first aid and RICE therapy call Dr. Mitchell Wachtel, podiatrist North Andover, at (978) 794-8406 to schedule an appointment in our Haverhill, MA office.