Acute soft tissue injuries sustained during athletic participation or everyday activities can be treated safely at home using the P.R.I.C.E Protocol, which stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The P.R.I.C.E. Protocol should be administered for the first 48 – 72 hours following the injury with the goals of controlling the pain and inflammation, as well as preventing further injury.
- Protection prevents further damage or aggravation of injury. Any activity that is causing the problem is stopped and the injured part is placed in a splint, sling, or brace. The patient is made to wear an ace bandage or athletic tape, as well as advised to stay off the injured limb through the use of crutches (in cases of lower limb injuries).
- Rest allows the body’s natural healing processes to take place via the inflammation without being interrupted by limb movement. Resting the injured part for the first 72 hours followed by gradual resumption of activity as tolerated is advised. Athletes may start to be non-weight bearing on crutches for the first 48 hours and then partial-weight bearing afterwards. Cutting back on regular activities allows the area heal.
- Applying an ice pack to the injured area for 15-20 minutes controls pain and inflammation. Do this four to eight times a day. You can use a cold pack, ice bag or plastic bag filled with ice wrapped in a towel. Ice is used to limit the injury-induced damage by lowering the temperature at the site of injury, thereby reducing metabolic demand, inducing vasoconstriction, and limiting the bleeding.
- Compression stops the bleeding and reduces the swelling. Controlling the amount of inflammatory fluids reduces the amount of fibrin, the fibrous protein involved in blood clotting, and therefore limits the production of scar tissue. The most commonly used compression wraps are elastic or ace bandages.
- Elevating the injured limb above the level of the heart as frequently as possible for the first 24 to 48 hours lowers the pressure in local blood vessels and limits the amount of blood flow to the injured area, reducing the bleeding. It also increases drainage of the metabolic wastes through the lymphatic system. The athlete can elevate the affected arm or leg by lying down and elevating the injured limb on pillows.
Following the PRICE Protocol can effectively control the inflammation in an injured area thereby reducing the amount of time required for healing and repair, so that the athlete can return to play quickly.
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