RICE For Knee Pain | Quick Guide On How It Works

Written By on July 22, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Mitch Torres (PT)

person holding a cold pack on their bandaged knee, Rice for knee pain

A quick fix for your achy knee sounds so good, right? If that’s a yes, then you should try using RICE for knee pain!

RICE means rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It’s a proven way to relieve pain and swelling early on for any type of knee injury. (1)

This article will show how each part of the RICE method helps with your knee pain. Tap on any of the links below to get started:

What is RICE therapy?

This therapy combines four treatments, each one corresponding to one letter of the acronym:

1) Rest

Rest allows your body to promote healing. It also helps avoid unnecessary stress on your knee that can further cause pain.

It doesn’t necessarily mean lying down all day, though. You can keep doing joint-friendly activities like walking, as long as you can tolerate it.

A couple of days’ rest should be enough. Too much of it might otherwise slow down your healing process.

2) Ice

Applying ice can numb the pain signal, thus reducing symptoms. (2) It also restricts blood flow, which in turn can help with inflammation.

This can give you a window of pain-free movement you can use to walk, stretch, or do the strengthening exercises your physical therapist recommended.

You can do it with an ice or cold pack, a cold towel, or even frozen peas. Just a heads up – you might feel a bit of burning or an aching sensation early on. This is normal for most people and eventually subsides. (3)

But if it doesn’t, try applying ice for shorter periods. Or, place a thin towel or a napkin between the cold pack and your skin. This can be enough to reduce discomfort.

This may help: What if ice makes my knee pain worse?

3) Compression

person wrapping a bandage on their knee, compression

The compression is effective for reducing swelling, which in turn eases knee pain. You can easily do this with an elastic medical bandage wrapped around your injured or sore area.

The wrapping should be snug, but not constricting. If it’s too tight, you may feel increased pain. But if it’s too loose, it won’t work.

Learn how to do it: Step-by-step guide for wrapping your knee.

4) Elevation

erson's leg propped up on a wall with a cold pack strapped on their knee, elevation

This means elevating your injured knee above chest level. Doing this can reduce swelling and potentially pain, by allowing gravity to pull down excess fluid build-up for you.

Related: Cold or heat pack – what’s better for your injured knee?

Is RICE enough to reduce pain?

For those with minor knee aches, yes – the RICE method might be enough to keep your pain away. But there can also be times when it doesn’t.

That can be a sign that your knee needs heat therapy instead. Or that you need additional help to heal.

So, you shouldn’t depend on the RICE method alone.

It helps manage pain, but it does not fix its cause. So if you’re experiencing severe pain or if the symptoms keep flaring up, you should get your knee checked by a doctor.

Your doctor can help figure out what’s wrong. They can also refer you to treatments and other specialists to assist with your knee pain.

This can help: What doctor should you go to for knee pain?

FAQs

How long should I RICE my knee?

RICE your knee for 10 minutes at a time, two to four times per day, during the first few days after injury. (4)

How do you use RICE on your knee?

To RICE your knee, make sure to Rest it so it heals. Also, apply Ice therapy with Compression and Elevation to reduce swelling and pain.

Is RICE good for joint pain?

Yes, RICE is good for joint pain and it also helps minimize swelling as well.

Conclusion: RICE treatment for knee pain

Using RICE for your knee is a great and effective way for reducing pain and can decrease swelling. It’s also great to jumpstart your recovery.

But remember that the RICE method is not a cure-all treatment. Some of you might find total pain relief, while others not so much.

If that’s the case, please get your knee checked by your doctor or physical therapist. They’ll help give you customized pain reduction strategies.

Resources

  1. Perryman, Jonathan R, and Elliott B Hershman. “The acute management of soft tissue injuries of the knee.” The Orthopedic clinics of North America vol. 33,3 (2002): 575-85. DOI: 10.1016/s0030-5898(01)00003-7
  2. van den Bekerom, Michel P J et al. “What is the evidence for rest, ice, compression, and elevation therapy in the treatment of ankle sprains in adults?.” Journal of athletic training vol. 47,4 (2012): 435-43. DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-47.4.14
  3. Behrens, Barbara J et al. “Physical Agents: Theory and Practice.” F. A. Davis Company, Jul 11, 2005. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=ndjaAAAAQBAJ&source=gbs_book_similarbooks
  4. Scialoia, Domenic et al. “The R.I.C.E Protocol is a MYTH: A Review and Recommendations.” The Sport Journal. 30 October 2020. https://thesportjournal.org/article/the-r-i-c-e-protocol-is-a-myth-a-review-and-recommendations/

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Author
Paolo Sarmiento (PT)

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