Acute injury - What to do

Acute Injury – What to do

Immediate first aid treatment following an injury such as a strain, strain, muscle pull or tear can prevent further complications and enable safe and rapid recovery.

The R.I.C.E.R regime aims to relieve pain, limit swelling and bleeding and protect your injury.  Treatment should begin immediately post injury and last for the first 72 hours.

R – REST - Rest is vital to protect the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or other tissue from further injury. Rest reduces blood flow to prevent further swelling. Also, you may need crutches to reduce loading through the injured area. You will be advised by your physiotherapist if this is appropriate.

I – ICE - Ice  to reduce the bleeding in the immediate area, thus limiting swelling and pain.

Do this 15-20 minutes every 2 hours. 

Ice pack, crushed ice in a towel, or even frozen peas are suitable

Important safety points

  1. Don't ice over a numb area or open wound. If the skin is numb you won't notice if you're developing an ice burn and ice on an open wound would risk infection
  2. Be wary of ice burns – don't apply ice directly to the skin, wrap an ice pack in a clean, damp tea towel before applying. Avoid prolonged exposure to ice, 15-20 minutes is usually adequate and also be careful applying the ice with too much pressure (e.g. Resting your leg on the ice bag).
  3. If you use frozen peas don't eat them after!

Stop applying ice if there are any negative effects such as increase in pain or swelling or skin soreness.

C – COMPRESSION –   Compression is applied over the injured area to prevent further inflammation and limit pain.

A firm compression bandage, or alternatively wearing compression tights such as 2XU or SKINS is also very useful in aiding the return of inflammatory fluid back to the body

The area should feel compressed but not uncomfortable or painful. Ensure there is good circulation distal to the bandage (I.e. in the toes if the ankle is compressed).

E – ELEVATION - Elevation above the heart aids in the return of blood and swelling from the injured area. It's most effective when the injured area is raised above the level of the heart.

R – REFER – Make an appointment to see one of our Physiotherapists for prompt management of your injury to get you back to your healthy self as quickly as possible.


HARM though is a recognised acronym and details the things to avoid in the first 72 hours following an injury;

  • Heat
  • Alcohol
  • Running
  • Massage

Heat is thought to increase blood flow by causing blood vessels to dilate. This could lead to increased bleeding and swelling.

Alcohol is also likely to increase bleeding and may delay healing.

Running. Healing tissue isn’t strong enough to manage the impact in running and is likely to breakdown causing further injury.

Massage is also thought to increase bleeding and swelling. Your Physio may choose to massage away from the injury site to help reduce swelling.


Every injury is different, including the time it takes to heal. Please follow the above advice and make an appointment to see one of our Physiotherapists for advice on further management. Call us on (03) 9523 0630 for prompt assessment.