Dr. Caldwell's Chiropractic and Sports Injury Health Blog


The PRICE Principle – Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation

by Dr. Caldwell Emmer-Lovell, Chiropractic Physician & Certified Athletic Trainer

An acute injury as defined by Marcia K, Anderson in Foundations of Athletic Training, is an injury with rapid onset because of a traumatic episode, but with short duration. Car accidents, collisions on an athletic playing surface, neck pain upon reaching into a filing cabinet, bending over to tie a shoe and feeling sharp shooting low back pain, and falls on the dance floor are examples of acute injuries. A chronic injury is defined as an injury with long onset and long duration. Examples of chronic injuries include an old college injury that still bugs you 10 years later, an automobile injury that still hurts 5 years later, and a case of tendinitis that seems to linger. To this day I still suffer from an injury that occurred when I was in college.

An acute injury needs to be taken care of immediately. What should be done is to apply the PRICE Principle. This is the old RICE principle with a P added. Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Protection comes in the form of using a walking device such as crutches or a cane, a brace such as a, knee, wrist, or elbow brace, cervical collar, lumbar brace. Rest is an important part of the equation, as it aids in healing and helps to prevent further injury. The injured body part needs time to rest so that it has a chance to heal. Just as ice is one of the most important players in the healing of an acute injury, heat is equally as detrimental. When heat is applied the blood vessels dilate and the area becomes inflamed or swollen. Inflammation causes pain. When ice is applied the blood vessels constrict and it reduces the inflammation. The reduction in inflammation leads to a reduction in pain. Ice therefore acts as an analgesic or pain reliever.

When applying ice, some precautions need to be taken. I recommend to my patients that they ice for 20 minutes every hour. Is important when icing to always put a thin towel or wash cloth between the ice and your skin. People who are sensitive to cold should check with their health care provider before using or applying ice therapy.

Finally, compression and elevation are two tools used to help control the inflammation. Compression can be achieved with the use of things like elastic wraps, compression sleeves, and certain braces. Elevation is most easily achieved with the use of pillows. You want to elevate the injured body part above the level of the heart to aid in reducing inflammation.

When you suffer any type of injury it is always a good idea to get evaluated by your health care provider. If you suffer an injury on an athletic playing surface (football field, basketball court, dance floor, softball field, etc…), home, or elsewhere seek care from a physician to include (doctors of chiropractic medicine, osteopathic medicine, and medical doctors), physical therapists, and athletic trainers. If the injury is life threatening dial 911 or your local emergency number. If you have any questions or comments about this article please call or email the office.

Contact Dr. Caldwell via phone: 216-759-0616 or email: drcaldwell@spinalacreschiro.com.