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What Is The P.R.I.C.E. Injury Protocol?

The P. R.I.C.E. protocol is a series of immediate actions recommended by physicians and physical therapists to treat muscle and other soft tissue injuries. The protocol should be followed 48 to 72 hours after the injury occurs to prevent additional damage, aid with pain relief, reduce swelling, and promote the healing process.

The P.R.I.C.E. Protocol:

I. Protect

The first step is to protect the injured area by limiting movement. Ace bandages and Velcro wraps/braces can be used to help stabilize many injuries. A sling will stabilize shoulder and arm injuries. Crutches can be used to keep weight off an injured leg or foot.

For injuries in the abdominal, chest, and upper back twisting and turning motions should be avoided. A back brace, abdominal brace and rib wrap can help limit motion and provide support.

During the first 24-72 hours after an injury lifting items and allowing children and pets in your lap should also be avoided. This will provide additional protection against sudden and reflexive movements.

II. Rest

The second step of rest is often ignored but is crucial to the healing process. Depending on the injury and pain level, rest includes lounging, taking naps or getting extra sleep, and resting the injury with limited movement and elevation.

Protecting and resting the injury does not mean absolute immobilization. Tensing and relaxing the muscles in and around the injured area will provide needed movement for optimal circulation and to minimize stiffness. Don’t be afraid to move joints that are not affected by the injury. For example, if you have a knee injury, keep the knee joint still but move the hips around by moving them side to side and slightly lifting them off the bed or chair then relaxing. Move your ankles up and down and rotate them in circles. Again this will help with circulation and reduce pain and stiffness.


Limiting motion and weight bearing are recommendations of the protection step in the PRICE protocol.

III. Ice

The third step is applying ice. Cold therapy is recommended to reduce swelling and pain. The most effective cold therapy is 20 minutes every one or two hours. Longer or more frequent treatments can harm the soft tissues. A quick ice treatment for any injury is a pack of frozen peas or corn. Never apply ice or an ice pack directly to the skin, always place a towel between the skin and the ice pack to prevent ice burn.

Note: Skin redness is normal after an ice treatment however redness with blotchy coloring or rash like symptoms is not. If this happens remove the ice and discontinue cold treatment. You may have a sensitivity to ice or extreme cold.


Ice reduces swelling and helps to relieve pain.

Cold Therapy

The Cureve Hot Cold Pack is an excellent pack to have on hand for warm and cold treatments. It is large enough to treat the back, chest, and abdominal area. It is also a great choice for arm and leg treatments because it can provide 360 treatment on the injured area.

BioFreeze Cold Gel is recommended by physicians, physical therapists and athletic trainers for muscle and soft tissue injury. It is their preferred gel/cream choice for the PRICE protocol. It is not a replacement for ice but works like ice as it cools the area and is excellent for relieving pain.

IV. Compression

The fourth step is to apply a compression wrap. Applying pressure to a newly injured area will reduce swelling as well as provide support. You can use an elastic bandage or a compression wrap. The wrap should be snug but should not cause pain, tingling or numbness. If the wrap feels too tight then it needs to be loosened. The wrap should be worn during the day. It can be worn at night but must be applied loosely to allow for nighttime swelling.

Note: Compression sleeves should not be used on recent injuries. Sleeves cannot be adjusted if swelling increases and can become too tight which will cut off circulation.  Until swelling subsides wraps and braces that are easily adjusted should be used.


Compression reduces swelling and provides support

Recommended Compression Wraps

When dealing with new acute injuries swelling can fluctuate during the day and night. These wraps and braces are recommended for their ease of use and adjustability.

V. Elevation

The last step is elevating the injured area. Raising the injured area above the heart reduces pain, swelling, and may help speed recovery. It is recommended that the injured area be elevated above the heart as much as possible for the first 48 hours. If swelling remains after 48-72 hours or reoccurs continue elevation as needed.


Keeping the injury elevated helps with circulation, swelling and pain reduction

Pain Relief

During the PRICE protocol, doctors recommend naproxen (Aleve) for pain relief. If naproxen is not an option for you Tylenol is recommended. Take according to package directions.

See a doctor immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms:

  • Immediate excessive swelling and bruising
  • Excruciating pain
  • Open wound requiring stitches


Donna Martin

Massage Therapist Owner: thewellnessdigest.com Twelve years of experience working with clients with chronic pain, post injury pain, and post surgery pain. Muscle dysfunction is often overlooked but can hold the key to many pain conditions.