Got an injury? RICE it

Sports injuries are not uncommon. In fact, anyone who actively follows a structured fitness program, will at some time suffer a pull, strain or break.

Body parts are uneven, often over stressed, worked without being pre-conditioned, and get older every day. When you have the unfortunate experience to suffer an injury, think RICE.

And think it quickly! The faster you help that injured part the quicker the healing process can begin.

RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Here is how it works. When you first feel that strain, STOP what you are doing and Rest. New fitness students will try to work out an injury with stretches, but stretching out an injury can add to the tear or strain.

Ice the injured part quickly to slow down the blood flow to the injured area to cut down on swelling; about 10 minutes on and 20 minutes off. Some of the medical and sports injury books say to ice the area for as much as 48 hours following the injury.

Compression of the injured area will help prevent swelling, which can also retard the healing process. Elevation of the injured area, especially if you can elevate it above the heart, uses gravity to help drain excess fluid and prevent swelling too.

After you have initiated all these procedures, it is time to contact a doctor. He will know the full extent of the injury and how long you will be incapacitated. The use of heat on an injury, after several days, may be helpful to stimulate blood flow to bring nutrients, oxygen, and new cells to the area.

Age is a big factor. It is a fact that kids heal faster. When they are growing their bodies build faster. The healing process in adults takes a lot longer. For example, an adult with a thighbone fracture will take as much as 18 weeks to heal, where as a child will heal in about 10 weeks. You cannot hasten the healing process whether you are an adult or a child.

Time is slow for those with injuries, but time it takes. Early return to fitness only re-opens the injury and you start all over again.

There are medications that will help with joint and muscle injuries that are prescribed by a doctor and should be taken while you rest, not to help you continue working on an injury. Don't take pain killers and exercise.

If I sound a bit strong about this advice, it's because people who really love exercise are capable of doing anything to keep going! If you have suffered an injury, sit beside the pool for a few weeks, use your RICE method, consult your doctor and slowly return to your fitness program.

• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.


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