How to Self-Treat Running Injuries

Young man holding ice pack on ankle
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Despite your best running injury prevention efforts, you may find yourself dealing with some aches and pains during your training. Most running injuries respond well to the "R.I.C.E." treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. RICE treatment can relieve pain, reduce swelling, and protect the injury from further aggravation. It should be followed for 24 to 48 hours following the initial injury.

RICE for Your Injuries

  1. Rest is often the easiest and most effective treatment for common running injuries. Take a couple of days off from running, it may be all you need to heal your injury.
    1. Depending on the nature and location of your injury, you may be able to do some no- or low-impact cross-training activities, such as swimming or cycling, during your rest period. Talk to your coach, physical therapist, or health care provider to determine whether you can do cross-training or should take a complete break from all exercise.
  2. Ice the trouble spot with an ice pack or a bag of frozen veggies for 20 minutes, every 4 to 6 hours. Make sure you wrap the ice pack in a towel before placing it on your skin. You should never place an ice pack directly on your skin as it might lead to ice burn.
    1. You can also use an ice cup. To make an ice cup, fill a paper cup with water and then put it in the freezer. When it's frozen, peel away the top of the cup and massage the injured area with the ice cup (covered with a towel) for approximately 10 minutes.
    2. Try to ice the affected area as soon as possible once you feel pain, and immediately after a run if you are running with an injury. Heat should only be applied to an injury after the inflammation is gone, usually after about 72 hours. If your swelling has gone down significantly, but there's still some inflammation, try alternating heat and ice after a few days of ice-only treatment.
  1. Compression limits swelling and can provide minor pain relief. You can wrap the affected area with an Ace bandage, but don't make it too tight. If you feel throbbing or excessive pressure, loosen the bandage.
    1. Don't assume that because your injured part is wrapped and feels a little better, it's safe to start running again. Make sure you give yourself the time you need to heal before you get back to running. Otherwise, you risk making your injury worse and increasing your recovery time.
  2. Elevate the injured body part — try to get it higher than your heart, if possible. In most cases, you can do this by lying down and propping the injured body part up on pillows.

In addition to RICE treatment, you may also want to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to relieve swelling and pain. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if you should take any.

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