The RICE treatment for ankle sprains

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments around the ankle are stretched or torn due to sudden twisting or rolling of the foot. Ankle sprains rank among the most prevalent musculoskeletal injuries, often sending individuals to the emergency room seeking relief from immediate pain. Treatment of ankle sprains focuses on reducing pain and promoting healing to restore mobility and function.

The RICE principles: a natural approach to heal ankle sprains

The cornerstone of initial treatment for ankle sprains lies in the tried and tested RICE principles: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Some variations include adding a "P" for Protection, though this is often considered synonymous with Rest. Let's break down each component:

  • Rest: Taking the weight off your injured ankle is paramount. Avoid prolonged standing or walking and instead, opt for restorative periods of sitting or lying down. If weight-bearing is too painful, consider using crutches or a supportive stick for mobility assistance.
  • Ice: Cooling the injured area with ice can help alleviate pain and reduce swelling, particularly in the first few days post-injury. Commercial ice packs or even a makeshift ice pack using a frozen bag of peas or corn can provide relief. Remember to apply ice for short intervals multiple times a day for optimal effect.
  • Compression: Wrapping the ankle with an elastic bandage or using a specialized ankle brace can provide gentle compression, aiding in reducing swelling and providing support. Ensure the compression is snug but not too tight, as excessive pressure may compromise circulation.
  • Elevation: Elevating the injured ankle above heart level is perhaps the most crucial step in the initial treatment of ankle sprains. This helps minimize swelling and subsequently reduces pain. It's essential to prioritize elevation, especially in the first few days post-injury or following surgery or fractures.

Rethinking RICE: A Contested Approach

While RICE has long been hailed as a go-to treatment for ankle sprains, recent studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine have cast doubt on its efficacy. These studies found limited evidence to support the positive effects of RICE, including its individual components like rest, ice, and compression. However, given the safe and natural profile of RICE, many practitioners still advocate for its inclusion in the management of ankle sprains. Combining RICE with physiotherapy or pain medication may enhance its effects, promoting overall comfort and facilitating recovery.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of these conditions is crucial for seeking timely medical attention. Mr Francesc Malagelada is dedicated to diagnosing and treating various foot and ankle conditions, providing personalised treatment plans to address your specific needs and help you get back on your feet comfortably. Contact us and book an appointment today!

Keep in mind that our blog is also a great place if you’d like to stay updated on the latest orthopaedic news.

This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult your physician for personalised guidance. In case of a medical emergency, contact your doctor or emergency services.