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Muscle Aches or Sprains: Get Some RICE!

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on August 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Have you had a minor sprain, strain, or muscle ache that took some time to heal? Minor musculoskeletal injuries are a common complaint for many people. These injuries can affect your muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, or bones. Your GoodRx pharmacist’s advice: get some RICE!

Minor aches, sprains and strains occur due to a variety of reasons. These can include hyperextensions, twists, blunt trauma, and many other causes. The RICE method promotes healing, and helps reduce inflammation and pain that may occur:

1. REST – For many muscles aches and injuries, including common injuries like shin splints, bursitis, and heel pain, resting is a major component in healing. Adequate resting time varies based on the type of injury, but is generally from around 1 to 2 days up to a week.

2. ICE – Providing cold therapy is the second step. This can be done using ice, cold packs, and other cooling tools. This prevents any further swelling and assists the healing process. This should be done as soon as possible, for ten to fifteen minutes at a time, up to 3 to 4 times a day.

3. COMPRESS – Compression can be done using a variety of bandages, straps, or commercially available products. This helps by limiting the injured area’s range of motion.

4. ELEVATE – Elevating the injured area for 2 to 3 hours a day is also a helpful way to promote the healing process.

The RICE method can be supplemented with medications, including:

1. Oral pain relievers: NSAIDs (like ibuprofen or naproxen) are useful at preventing inflammation and for when swelling is present. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), like NSAIDS, will help with pain. You should only use NSAIDs or acetaminophen as needed, and consult your pharmacist if you’re not sure if taking them is right for you. Acetaminophen toxicity and overuse of NSAIDs is a major problem, so follow dosing instructions and stay safe!

2. Topical creams and ointments: Over the counter creams like Bengay, Aspercreme and Icy Hot contain ingredients like salicylates (related to salicylic acid and aspirin), menthol, and camphor (amongst others), which provide temporary relief by acting as counter-irritants. These ingredients help to block the feeling of pain, providing some relief. Most creams can be used safely over a period of time, but should be limited to only three to four times a day.

It is also important to know when to get advice from a health care provider. If your injury is severe, affects your quality of life, or inhibits normal activity, make an appointment to have it checked.

Till next week,

The GoodRx Pharmacist

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