The RICE method is mainly used to treat acute injuries, though if a chronic injury is severe enough to require regular treatment, it can be used to treat them as well.
This method consists of four parts: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
Rest: This step, though important, is hopefully self-explanatory. Continuing to use an injured part of the body will hurt a lot and almost always will make the injury worse. It will also reduce the chances for a complete recovery—if you don’t rest, the body can’t heal.
Hot Tip: Ice Pack
Ice packs are often used to treat acute injuries, mostly because they help reduce swelling, and swelling is a common symptom of an acute injury.
Heat packs, on the other hand, are often used to treat chronic injuries, because the heat from the pack increases blood flow to the affected area, which speeds up the recovery process.
It's common for athletes to use a combination of ice and heat on the same injury. Ice is used at the beginning of the injury, while heat can be used later to help with any pain or tightness encountered in the healing process.
: The ‘Ice’ stage doesn’t necessarily need ice specifically, just something cold, which will help reduce/prevent swelling and pain. A reasonable ‘icing’ period is 15 to 30 minutes, followed by 15 to 30 minutes (or equal time) without ice. This cycle can be repeated a few times a few times a day, but be careful to not over ice the area.
Compression: Swelling is common after an injury. It prevents healthy blood from reaching the damaged area and is one of the biggest culprits in preventing a timely recovery; the more blood flow, the quicker the injury will heal. When not icing the injured area, be sure to keep it wrapped, but do so gently, as wrapping it too tightly (to the point that it throbs, for example) will also prevent the injury from healing quickly.
Elevation: Elevating the injured area will also help to reduce swelling. Elevation is most beneficial if you can place the injured area above the heart. With a hyper-extended knee, for example, it is useful to lay flat with several pillows or folded blankets under the injured leg which will prop it up higher than your core (where you heart is).
RICE cannot be used to treat all acute injuries. A broken nose, for example, can definitely be iced, but it would be difficult (and probably painful) to apply effectively compress the area to help it heal.