When a soft-tissue injury occurs, an effective first step to reduce swelling is to treat it with rest, ice, compression and elevation, or RICE, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. To avoid injury in the first place, experts recommend carefully increasing physical activity to allow the body to adjust, warming up and cooling down, slow and careful stretching, drinking plenty of water, and giving the body adequate rest in between training sessions.
To follow the RICE protocol, the injured person should take a break from physical activity and avoid putting weight on the injury, apply a cold pack to the injury several times a day for 20 minutes, use an elastic compression dressing on the area, and elevate the injured area above the level of the heart, explains the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. A contusion, bruising in which direct or repeated blows damage the muscles and connective tissue under the skin, usually responds well to RICE without needing additional treatment. A sprain is a stretch or tear of the ligaments that support the body's joints and may require bracing, physical therapy or even surgery. A strain is a tear of the tendons or muscle tissue, usually in the legs, feet or back. Treatment for strains involves gentle exercise to regain mobility and reduce pain, but in severe cases surgery may be necessary.