The R.I.C.E. Protocol

By Matt Paulus, MS, ATC

The R.I.C.E. Protocol for Injuries

The R.I.C.E. protocol is an acronym which is used for the care of most acute injuries.  It is recommended to be used especially for injuries of the extremities where there is swelling and pain.  This self-care protocol is widely used in the field of Sports Medicine and First Aid.  Lets look at what the R.I.C.E. technique stands for:


– Rest or immobilize the affected area, and stay off of it until is can be evaluated.  This is to make sure that the injury is protected and to prevent further damage. Rest is also important to any inflamed joint, muscle or tendonitis.

Cute Dog for RICE Protocol for Ankle Spains

Rest for the RICE Protocol


– Ice the injured area as soon as possible for 15-20 minutes. Re-apply ice every 2-4 hours for the first 48 hours of injury.  If you are sensitive to ice, place a layer of protection for your skin on that area.  A pillow case or a small hand towel work great at home.  Ice will help with the swelling and pain related to the injury.  Check your skin during the application to make sure you don’t get an ice burn.

Ice bag for the Rice Protocol for ankle sprains

Ice Bag for the Rice Protocol


– Wrap an elastic bandage (Ace wrap) around the affected body part. You can also use compression socks for a lower leg or foot injury.  This should be snug, but not tight enough to cut off circulation.  If you are using an ace wrap for compression, start with the area that is furthest away from your body.  This should be the tightest part of the wrap process.  As you wrap the body part, the tension should decrease as you wrap towards your body. You can check the color of your toes for proper circulation.  If your toes or fingers are turning red or blue, you need to take the wrap off as you applied to much compression.

Compression Socks for the RICE Protocol for ankle sprains

Compression Socks for the R.I.C.E. Protocol


– Elevate the body part with a couple of pillows. Ideally the area should be higher than your heart.  So, for a sprained ankle, the ankle must be elevated above the level of your heart if you are lying down.  Elevation after an injury is very important to keep the swelling under control.  For a hand or wrist injury, use pillows to prop your hand up above your heart.  Elevation helps to reduce the throbbing sensation you have after an injury.

Elevation of your feet for the an ankle sprain

Proper Elevation of your feet above your heart for the foot and ankle

When Should You Use The R.I.C.E. Protocol? 

The Quick Answer is the R.I.C.E. Protocol can be used for a variety of injuries.  The entire protocol works great for our extremities.  It certainly works for fingers, hand, wrist, elbow, ankle, foot, toes and knee injuries.  You can also use parts of the protocol for low back, hip, shoulder and other body parts.  It is much harder to elevate this body parts, but the use of rest, ice and compression can certainly be helpful.

RICE Protocol | JOI

RICE Protocol


What do I do for a swollen foot and an ankle sprain?

The foot and ankle work together to provide support and mobility to the rest of the body. So what happens when you sprain your foot or ankle?  Due to gravity, swelling will begin and stay in the areas which are furthest away from your heart.
Foot and ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that connect bone to bone are pulled, stretched, or torn. This often happens during sports or recreational activity and tripping or stumbling on uneven ground.
Symptoms of a sprained foot or ankle include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking.  It is normal to get bruising of red and purple colors in the foot, ankle and toes from swelling.  The R.I.C.E. protocol can certainly be the first aid that you use at home for these injuries.

If bearing weight on the foot or ankle is painful, then you should use crutches until you can see your physician.

We hope that this article has been helpful for you.  If you ever have any questions about an injury, you can certainly call and talk to one of the clinicians at JOI Rehab.  To schedule for physical therapy at one of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045. 

Related Articles/Videos: Trevor Lawrence Video on the JOI Foundation and How To Reduce Swelling 

If you need to schedule an appointment with an Orthopaedic Specialist, give us a call at 904-JOI-2000, schedule online or click the link below.

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