R.I.C.E. (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION) treatment is the most important thing you have to do in the first few days after injury. Nice weather brings more outdoor sports and recreational activities, but also a risk of injury – sprains, pulled muscles, and blows. Since we tend to treat these injuries with home remedies, they tend to last (instead of few days) for several weeks or months, and are sometimes complicated enough to demand medical attention.
With soft tissue damage (muscles, ligaments, joint envelopes), swelling appears, along with inflammatory process in the vicinity of the injury. This is why this area is warmer than the rest of the body, and sometimes red, even harder to palpation due to blood vessel bursting. First half an hour after the injury is vital to reduce the possible damage in the soft tissue and minimize the recovery time. Americans thought of the word RICE, to simplify and explain the procedure - rest, ice, compression, elevation.
Rest - It is very important to stop all physical activities after the injury occurred. It doesn't matter if it's walking or football. The goal is to not damage the injured part even more. Don't be like your physical therapist who gives you this advice and doesn't follow it himself – I played soccer last New Year's Eve and not only injured knee ligaments, but several minutes later the cartilage as well, so instead of a few weeks, the recovery is still in progress.
Ice - serves to reduce pain and inflammation, and by contracting the blood vessels it reduces swelling as well. However, it must be applied immediately after the injury and not longer than 5 to 10 minutes. If you don't have ice cubes, you can use cold water. Do not use frozen vegetables, meat, or other things from the freezer, directly to the skin longer then 5 minutes!!! They can cause frostbites and even enhance the inflammatory process.
Compression - Swelling around the injury ends when the blood pressure inside the swollen part is great enough to stop the bleeding from the damaged blood vessel. This pressure can be artificially enhanced by bandaging the injured place, which reduces the final swelling and speeds up the recovery.
Elevation - After everything we've done, it is good to place the injured extremity in an elevated position at least for a few hours. This will enable the body to start the evacuation of the swelling.
All this is not a substitute for a medical exam, but can reduce the risk from the injury. All other popular procedures, creams with a warming or cooling effect, bandages filled with cabbage, vinegar, or egg whites, must be left for later, after the RICE procedure. Also, with greater swelling followed by intense pain, you should seek medical attention. Sometimes the bone breaks in what seem to be small blows.
Excerpted From: http://www.physiobook.com/physical-therapy/electrotherapy/rice-rest-ice-compression-elevation.html