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HealthInfo Canterbury

Soft tissue injuries & RICE treatment

A soft tissue injury can involve damage to your muscles, tendons, joint capsules, and ligaments.

You can do a lot yourself to make sure you recover as quickly as possible.

Repeat the 20-minute RICE treatment every two to four hours for the first 48 hours.

Avoid any activities that cause HARM.



Don't: HARM

REST – Stop exercise immediately, this prevents further damage and bleeding.

HEAT – Don't apply any heat or deep heat creams, as these increase bleeding.

ICE – Put crushed ice in a damp towel moulded over the damaged area. If you have sensitive skin, smear it with oil before applying the ice pack. Remove the pack after 20 minutes. During the first 24 to 48 hours, apply ice for 20 minutes every four to five hours.

This reduces bleeding, pain, and spasm.

ALCOHOL – Don't drink alcohol, as it increases swelling.

COMPRESSION – Wrap the damaged area firmly for the first few days with a bandage or compression stocking. Take it off at night and put it back on the next day. This is to avoid the bandage or stocking moving while you are asleep and causing pressure and discomfort.

This reduces bleeding and swelling, as well as providing support.

RUN – Don't run or exercise too soon, as this can make the injury worse.

ELEVATION – Raise the damaged limb, ideally above the level of your heart, to reduce swelling. It is important that you pump your fingers and toes regularly and put them through a full range of movement, as this also helps to reduce swelling.

MASSAGE – Don't massage the injured area, as this will increase swelling and bleeding.


After resting your injured limb for 48 hours (or longer if a health professional tells you to) continue the RICE treatment and combine it with gentle exercise.

Begin to exercise the injured part by taking the joint gently through its normal range of movement.

Do not force movements of your injured limb, and stop if it gets too painful.

If, despite the RICE treatment, the injury does not improve in a few days, see your health professional to assess it. If you have a letter from the Orthopaedics Department, take that with you.

A soft tissue injury is often just as painful the next day, and it may take several days for the swelling to settle and the bruising to come out. Gently moving your limb will not hurt it.

Simple pain relief such as paracetamol or paracetamol and codeine should provide enough pain relief (take no more than two every four hours, with a total of no more than eight a day).

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2019.


Page reference: 32850

Review key: HILWI-174362