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Health Information It Doesn't Pay to Play in Pain

With summer sports comes the chance for injuries — not just major breaks and tears, but also simple sprains and strains.

Thankfully, there's a simple an effective system for treating these injuries. "If you experience this type of injury, remember 'RICE' — Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation," says Charles Bush-Joseph, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Rush and a team doctor for the Chicago White Sox.

  • Rest: Totally rest is not necessary; simply reduce your activity until the swelling and pain subsides, usually 3 or 4 days. You'll want to listen to your body and use gentle movement to keep the area from becoming stiff.
  • Ice: Apply ice every 15 minutes per hour the first day. Then apply every 15 minutes per 3 to 4 hours for the second and third day. Watch the time carefully or set a timer, because you don't want to ice for too long. Leaving the ice on for more than 20 minutes could cause frostbite.
  • Compression: Wrapping the knee in an elastic bandage (like an Ace brand bandage) can limit swelling and relieve pain.
  • Elevation: Elevate the injured area above the level of heart (place on pillow) while icing, if possible. This will further reduce swelling.

"Contact your physician if the swelling does not go down and pain increases," says Bush-Joseph.

Sprains and strains are common bone and joint injuries. A sprain is an injury to a ligament that connects bones to bones. Strains are injuries to muscles and tendons. RICE is an easy and effective way to manage these minor injuries.

"A much better approach, however, is to avoid the injury in the first place," says Bush-Joseph. "It's just a matter of conditioning your body before you participate in a physical activity and not going past your limits or energy reserves. Injuries are more likely to occur when you've stretched yourself past your limits or when your body is just not prepared for the demands of a particular activity."

Always play it safe and check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. It may take a trip to the emergency room for a major injury, but don't forget RICE with a follow-up with your doctor for a minor injury.


More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For information on sports medicine at Rush visit the Sports Medicine Program home page.
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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