The RICER Method
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Referral
The immediate treatment of soft tissue injury should be performed in accordance with the RICER method: rest, ice, compression, elevation and referral. The aims of the RICER method are to:
- Ease pain,
- Prevent further tissue damage,
- Reduce the formation of scar tissue, and
- Reduce the time needed for rehabilitation.
The athlete should cease participation in the sporting activity and be placed in a comfortable position. The injured site should be kept immobile, and all weight bearing activities avoided.
The application of ice to an injury results in the vasoconstriction of blood vessels, hence decreasing circulation and reducing swelling. Ice should be applied to the direct injury site in addition to the surrounding area. To avoid skin damage, the ice should not come in contact with bare skin, and instead be contained in a wet towel and applied to the injured site every 20 minutes for 48 to 72 hours after the injury.
The injured site and surrounding area should be compressed using a wide, elastic, compression bandage. Apart from providing physical support to the injury, the application of a compression bandage reduces swelling by limiting fluid build-up.
The injured part should be elevated above the level of the heart. This reduces the volume and pressure of blood flow to the injured area and hence limits inflammation.
Medical assistance should be sought as soon as possible to determine the full extent of the injury and to commence appropriate rehabilitation.
By correct and immediate implementation of the RICER procedure, the negative, long term effects of soft tissue injuries are significantly reduced. However, there are certain things NOT to do when affected by a soft tissue injury: the No HARM method. It includes no application of heat (which increases bloodflow and inflammation), no alcohol (which although numbs the pain, can cause irresponsibile choices), no massage (as pressue increases blood flow) and no running (i.e. no strenuous physical activity).