4 Keys to Recovery

R.I.C.E: First Aid Treatment for Shoulder-related Injuries

R.I.C.E , which stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate, is the four most important first aid procedures for acute shoulder injuries such as sprains and strains. The R.I.C.E treatment is done to ease the pain, prevent further swelling, and swiftly heal the injured area.

The following is a detailed description for each of the methods involved in the R.I.C.E treatment:


It is important to discontinue any activities as soon as symptoms of injury appear. Rest immediately as this is important in protecting the injured tissues. Rest is also critical in providing the body the energy it needs during the healing process. Avoid activities could aggravate the shoulder injury, such as overhead arm movements and heavy lifting. It may be necessary to wrap a sling around the arm and shoulder.


Placing ice packs, iced bottled water or even a bag of frozen vegetables on the injured area is one of the most common treatments of acute shoulder injuries.  Application of an ice pack must be done for the first 48-72 hours following the injury in order to alleviate the pain. When the injury is accompanied with swelling, ice treatment is used to lessen the swelling. Ice packs must be applied no more than 20 minutes and should be placed over a towel to prevent skin damage such as frostbite.

The ice treatment is generally used in injuries such as shoulder sprains. On chronic injuries, such as shoulder arthritis, ice treatment must be applied after the activity to prevent inflammation. However, in order to relax the muscles and allow adequate blood flow to the injured area. A hot treatment must be applied on chronic injuries before doing any activities. A hot treatment may be done by using heating pads or washcloths under moderate heat to avoid burns. Heat treatment should not be applied on acute injuries.


Swelling delays the healing process. To reduce swelling, use a pressure elastic bandage or wrap over the injured area. Ensure that the bandage is not wrapped tightly as this may suppress blood circulation. If throbbing occurs, this means that the bandage is tightly wrapped around the injury and it is necessary to re-wrap. Aside from being able to reduce the swelling, compression also helps in easing the pain.


The injured area must be elevated to help reduce swelling. The level of elevation must be above the level of the heart. This is done mostly by lifting the legs or arms by using several pillows for support.

The R.I.C.E treatment will usually improve the symptoms within 2 days. If pain and swelling still persist after using the R.I.C.E method, consult a physician immediately.

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