Edema Treatments

Excessive swelling (called edema) can interfere with the body’s healing process, so treatments that limit the swelling should be swiftly implemented to allow the body’s healing process to continue.

There are several acronyms for memory aids for treating swelling caused by sports injuries, and all are very similar. For example, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The acronym NICER provides another useful memory aid to effective swelling treatments, and this includes all of the treatments recommended by RICE plus an additional treatment:


• Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are pain relieving medications that are available over the counter at your pharmacist. NSAIDs medications include:

o Acetaminophen (Tylenol),
o Aspirin,
o Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin),
o Ketoprofen,
o Naproxen sodium,

which are effective at controlling and relieving pain.

In addition, all of these medications, except for Acetaminophen (Tylenol), will help reduce stiffness, inflammation, and swelling. Your doctor will be able to advise you on whether to take the medications on an “as needed basis” when the pain becomes intense, or on a regular schedule each day.

• Ice, and other cold therapies, are useful because they reduce pain and help to limit swelling. Ice should never be placed directly against the skin. Instead, wrap the ice in a cloth or towel and apply this to the skin. The amount of time for which cold therapies should be applied depends upon the location and severity of the injury. To avoid ice related injuries, it is normally recommended that ice is applied for 20 minutes at a time, and 4-8 times per day.

• Compression is the technique of mechanically limiting the amount of swelling by restricting the amount of space in and around an injury. This is commonly achieved with compression bandages, elastic wraps, special boots, air casts, or splints.

• Elevation of the injured limb or location can help control swelling because gravity helps fluid drain more effectively from the injury. It is recommended that you put the injured area on a pillow, at a level above your heart.

• Rest and restricted activity allow the healing process to proceed, while also reducing the risks of aggravating the injury that further movement and motion may cause. If you have injured your foot, ankle, or knee, then you can take weight off of it by using a crutch.

If the signs and symptoms of your injury don’t get better after a few days of the above treatments, or if they get worse, then you should seek Professional Treatment.