People who love to exercise seem to be constantly plagued with injury. That’s a common side effect of being an active person. A slip, a fall, an overuse injury is of special concern to people who train consistently and/or race competitively. There is a presumption that there is ‘nothing’ one can do as soon as the pain starts to manifest. And yet, that approach couldn’t be further from the truth! Tackling your injuries head-on and/or addressing the pain as soon as it starts is the best approach to healing quickly.

Ignoring minor aches and pains can only be done for so long. Most people are very attune to their bodies. Often times, we are able to ascertain if the injury is to the muscle, bone or connective tissue. And of course, if you’re not, make your way immediately to the doctor or sports medicine specialist. However, as long as you’re not dealing with a break or sprain, beginning to R.I.C.E. {rest, ice, compression and elevation} from the very beginning will help to keep you mobile and healing. This treatment, for soft tissue injuries, should shorten the duration of your recovery as well as minimize the discomfort you feel. Do keep in mind: R.I.C.E. is considered a first-aid treatment, not a cure, with objective of managing internal bleeding and inflammation.

Rest is a key component in order to heal the body. If your routine is to run each and every day, you’ll need to stop. You don’t have to hang up your hat completely, but why not take the pressure off and cycle instead? Without rest, continual strain is placed on the injured area, which can cause increased inflammation, pain and the potential for a more serious injury. Being recumbent for periods of time might just be what you need in order to regain full function, mobility and ultimately be pain free.

Ice is used to reduce inflammation and help mitigate the pain from heat generated from the injury itself.

A good rule of thumb is 20 minutes of ice per every hour. In order to prevent frostbite, you must  place ice in a towel to avoid placing it directly to your skin. Additionally, exceeding the recommended time for ice application may actually make things worse. This approach has actually been shown to delay the healing process.

The objective of compression is to reduce the swelling resulting from inflammation. With soft tissue injuries, the swelling is inevitable. But, too much swelling can mean loss of function, increased pain and the slowing of blood flow. All that’s needed for proper compression is a soft elastic bandage. The fit of the bandage should be snug, but you should still be able to move freely. Muscles still need to be able to contract and fill with blood.

The last bit of the puzzle is elevation. People with soft tissue injuries should actively elevate the injured body part in order to help reduce swelling by increasing the return of blood to the systemic circulation. Less edema also equates to less pain. Coming home after a long day at work or post-ride should definitely involve some time on the couch or in bed with pillows placed strategically beneath you.

R.I.C.E. is an easy mnemonic tool to keep you abreast of your healing. Keep in mind this is the correct, proactive approach when dealing with soft tissue injuries which are by far quite common. However, injuries to tendons and ligaments should involve an approach that champions the return of blood flow. The moment you start to feel pain, think about what you can do to start the healing process. Ignoring the pain only makes things worse.