What Is The Rice Method?

When I first heard about the RICE method I imagined it would involve eating a heap of rice the night before my marathon to store up on my glycogen stores… (hmmm, OK)

Well, for anyone else who doesn’t know what RICE is all about, it stands for:

Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation

RICE is a first aid tool used to treat muscle strains and sprains – it’s not a cure for injury but it does help with muscle recovery and the immediate pain and swelling which occurs with a muscle injury

When To Use It?

It is best utilised as soon as possible after an injury or strain. So, if you feel something twang and you feel pain increasing as you run – then stop running, walk home and then RICE it. I know it is hard to give up a run, but if it hurts forget your run and come home ;-)

Running Tips HQ:

Use a bag of frozen peas to ice your muscles – they conform to the shape of your leg or ankle nicely, unlike a bag of ice cubes

RICE is about keeping the swelling and inflammation down to a minimum. Inflammation is the body’s initial reaction to injury – blood and other fluids are pumped into the affected area to prevent further damage. This sounds great but swelling can lead to more pain and can inhibit healing

When applying the RICE method, follow these steps:


First, take the weight off the injury by sitting or lying down, and then apply the ice - you don’t have to rest for a certain period first - so sit down or, better still lie down, then ice


Apply the ice for at least 15 minutes (maximum 20 minutes) and then leave it at least 45 minutes before re-applying the ice to avoid any chance of frost bite. Do this about 5 times throughout the day


After icing is finished, compress the area – you can use Tubigrip, elastic bandage etc. Not too tight though, you don’t want to inhibit movement


Ideally this means raising the injury above the level of the heart to help reduce swelling

RICE is a great first aid treatment for muscular running injuries and something you can easily do yourself to reduce pain and swelling

You turn on an ankle or strain a calf muscle and have to hobble home - it hurts but not getting worse. You get home and so now you have a good time-window to apply the RICE

Don’t wait around though, if you think you may have a serious injury – if you can’t move a joint, for example, or the swelling and pain get worse, excessive bruising - don’t take the risk and go and see your doctor ;-)

Should I Use The RICE Method For My Knee?

There is little benefit to applying RICE to a sore knee. It can be treated with rest and ice treatment initially, yes – this would ease the pain, but often with knees, this would only be a temporary fix

If knee pain is persistent you could have runners knee or ligament damage in which case less mileage and strengthening is usually the best strategy. RICE treatment would only be effective on muscular strains not ligament damage in the knee

Confused? - Let’s recap:

Icing on the aches
(think of icing on the cake)

RICE for the limps home

I know it’s easy to get ice treatment mixed up with the RICE method (i've done it before) - but when you think about it, niggling aches and pains don’t need to be compressed and elevated, but could benefit from an ice pack to reduce discomfort

If your sore ankle is twice the size it usually is, then you need the RICE method :-(

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