Five years ago, when someone sprained their ankle, what did everyone tell them to do? RICE! Rest, ice, compression, and elevation!
Some of the ideas behind the old acronym for acute injuries remain the same, but RICE was often taken too far. Individuals hindered their recovery by resting the injured body part too long. Because of this, RICE has been replaced by a new acronym, POLICE:
P: Protect the injured joint, ligament, or muscle – this means resting the area for a few days, and then after that, when you do start moving the area, continuing to protect it (for an ankle sprain, this might look like using crutches).
OL: Optimal Loading – while still in the protection phase but after a few days of rest, you should start gently moving the joint, first passively, then actively, and finally with exercises. In the past, injuries often lead to lots of muscle atrophy and stiffness; this optimal loading focuses on beginning to move and strengthen the muscle at the appropriate time rather than getting stuck in the “rest” phase as the muscle continues to weaken and the joint stiffens up.
I: Ice can help temporarily decrease the swelling around your injury. The inflammation is one of the contributors to the pain you feel around your injury, so icing for 20 minute increments can help manage your pain.
C: Compression can also help with swelling. Think: ACE bandage, compression sock, etc.
E: Elevation: Placing the injured body part up is another means of reducing swelling and inflammation. If your ankle is injured, try lying down and placing your ankle/leg on a stack of pillows.
The main difference is that “rest” has been replaced with “protection” and “optimal loading”. Protecting the injured area and getting a few days of rest is important, but it is also essential to begin moving the area and progressively loading it as your body heals, for optimal recovery.
If you’ve just experienced a strain or sprain, whether mild or severe, and have questions on how to handle it, feel free to call and ask for one of our experienced physical therapists! They will be able to give you guidance to help you recover as quickly (and fully) as possible: 616-662-0990.
By: Lisa Pfotenhauer, C-EP
Steve Bartz, PT