How to Effectively Treat Soft Tissue Injuries

How to Effectively Treat Soft Tissue Injuries

If you’ve suffered a soft injury in the past – even a garden variety strain or sprain – chances are you’ve been advised to use the RICE method to recover. Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate have long been the guidance to heal from these injuries – but does this method actually give our bodies the best chance to heal quickly and effectively? 

New research suggests that RICE may not be the most effective management of soft tissue injuries. In its place, two new acronyms have emerged – PEACE and LOVE – which incorporate the most recent research around soft tissue injury management and recovery. 

What was wrong with RICE? 

While many principles of the RICE method are still valid and effective in the treatment of sprains and sprains, there are some elements that may not be as helpful as initially believed. 

Resting, for example, is an intuitive and logical early strategy to aid in our recovery. However, there can be too much of a good thing; and in the case of rest, prolonged periods of inactivity can actually compromise the healing process for our tissues. 

Inflammation has long been thought of as a negative side-effect of injury, but it’s important to note that it plays a crucial role in the healing of soft tissue injuries. While your first reaction may be to reach for medication to relieve symptoms of inflammation, this may actually add extra time to your recovery. 

There is currently no high-quality evidence to support the use of ice in the acute management of soft tissue injuries however there is no evidence it does any harm either when used for short durations. Therefore its use should primarily be seen as pain relief and to reduce inflammation which may be helpful with more significant joint injuries.

What’s the alternative method for soft tissue injury treatment

Rather than focussing solely on the acute period post-injury as RICE does, its modern equivalent takes a more holistic approach to guiding you through injury and recovery. 

Let’s break down the acronym to learn more about this new method to treat strains and sprainsPEACE and LOVE. 

Firstly, PEACE guides you through the steps to take immediately after suffering a soft tissue injury:


One of the most important things to ensure your healing is to avoid further damage or irritation to your injured tissues. Take extra care and protect the injured area for 1-3 days – when you notice a reduction in pain, this is a good sign that you can ease up on this step. 


Not all of RICE has been discarded – far from it! Elevation of the injured level (above the level of your heart) helps to promote fluid flow out of your tissues, which begins to develop as a response to injury. 

Avoid anti-inflammatories

As touched on earlier, anti-inflammatory medication can actually delay your recovery. As tempting as it is, avoid medications to have a clearer view of your progress and symptoms. 


Another carry-over from RICE, compressing an area – either with a compression bandage or sleeve, or tape – can help both to protect your injury and to prevent joint pain and inflammation (while not preventing inflammation of the injury site itself). 


As Physiotherapists, we regularly educate our clients in the early stages of their recovery. Arming yourself with a plan for your soft tissue injury management – along with realistic expectations about progress and timeframes for recovery – will ensure you’re doing everything in your power to bounce back.

After this initial period, LOVE helps you to promote movement and blood flow as crucial elements of a timely recovery:


A fundamental component to recovery from soft tissue injuries is the appropriate introduction of mechanical stress – putting your muscles under load. Even if this brings minor discomfort, this helps to promote repair and build tolerance in the tissue. 


Recovery from such strains and sprains isn’t a purely physical process. Our bodies are naturally resilient, so supporting this adaptive response to an injury with positive thoughts (along with the education you acquired in the PEACE process) can help to optimise your recovery. 


It’s ideal to resume pain-free, low-impact aerobic activity a few days after suffering a soft tissue injury. This not only ticks the ‘load’ box above but promotes vascularisation or blood flow to the injured area, aiding recovery. This also ensures the condition of your other muscles is maintained, and can even reduce the need for pain medication. 


When we consider the management and treatment of soft tissue injury, physiotherapists will always prescribe exercise as part of the process. Introducing movements that specifically target and develop your mobility, strength, control, and proprioception (your body awareness) all can be key components of rehabilitation. 


As time progresses and our understanding of the body continues to develop, we’ll continue to see advancements in the advice to best manage soft tissue injuries.

While PEACE and LOVE are a bit more involved than the simple ‘RICE’ method, these steps do promote better recovery from soft tissue injuries – a stepping stone in our ability to treat and rehabilitate those recovering from strains and sprains

Need more guidance? If you’ve recently suffered a soft tissue injury, Peter Growse has all the tools to help guide you through the recovery process. Through accurate diagnosis and the creation of a tailored management plan, Peter will help you return to full function.

Published February 22, 2023


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