The I in RICE
The basic formula for treating sprains is "RICE": rest, ice, compression and elevation. Ice can be essential in reducing the swelling that often comes with sprains. Here are a few pointers on using ice effectively:
- A cold pack designed for treating injuries can be helpful, but it's by no means necessary. If you don't have one, try using bags of frozen vegetables instead. Bags of frozen peas or corn are great ice pack substitutes: they will not place too much pressure on the injury, and they can wrap comfortably around the injured body part.
- Apply ice for 20 minutes. Wait 40 minutes (or longer) before applying again.
- Never apply ice or a cold pack directly onto the skin. (In some cases, this can cause a form of frostbite.) Instead, place a moist towel between the ice and your skin.
- Pay extra attention to skin exposure when using store-bought cold packs. Some can reach colder temperatures than ice.
The RICE formula is usually recommended for the first 24 to 48 hours after injury. However, if you suspect your sprain is severe or if your injury is not improving, consult a physician.