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RICE Method for Injuries on Trail

One of the most important skills a thru-hiker or backpacker can learn is the ability recover from an injury. If you are in pain on trail, you should address it immediately. Ignoring the pain is not a solution. If you are experiencing pain while you hike, using the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) may help.

*** It is always recommended to follow the advice of your health care provider.

Paul Bodnar       Educational       8/24/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
8/24/2021

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Step 1: Rest

If you are feeling pain then your body is providing a signal that something is wrong. If you feel significant pain on trail you should stop and rest to let your body recover. This might even include taking a few days off and spending some time resting in town. Hiking in pain will not make the injury go away, so it’s important that you rest.

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Step 2: Ice

Apply an ice pack (covered with a light towel to prevent the skin from getting too cold) to the injury for 15 to 20 minutes. If you don’t have access to ice, you can soak the injured area in cold water (creek water can work great). Repeat the process every two to three hours.

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Step 3: Compression

Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage (ACE bandage) to prevent swelling. The bandage should be snug but not so tight that is restricts blood flow. If the skin turns blue or you feel any numbness, loosen the bandage immediately.

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Step 4: Elevation

When resting, raise the injured part above the level of your heart. For example, you can prop your feet up on your backpack if an area on your leg is injured.

Medication

Your medical provider may suggest an over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen (brand name Advil) or naproxen (brand name Aleve) along with the RICE treatment.

**Talk to your medical provider before taking medication or implementing the RICE method.

Summary

If you are feeling pain in your ankle or foot, it’s important that you stop and take action to address the issue. Continuing to hike in pain will not cure your injury and will likely make it much worse.

To help increase the healing process, the application of the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) may help. It’s important to rest as much as possible for the first 48 hours after the injury.

**It is recommended that you seek the advice of your health care provider before implementing the RICE method and before taking any medication.


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Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

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About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 90 guides for trails around the world.