U sing cold to treat inflammation and injuries is a practice that dates back to ancient Egyptians. People have seen millennia ago how effective cold is for injury rehabilitation, and with time, have perfected the method. Since the 19th century, we have had cryotherapy and cryosurgery, practices that are updated versions of the primitive versions of ice therapy used by our ancestors. And the upgrading only continued since then.
Nowadays, cryotherapy has expanded and there are multiple ways in which you can treat injury via cold items or special tech. Sports-related injuries and post-surgery recovery are two of the most common instances for which ice therapy is recommended and used. However, as beneficial as it might be, there are risks related to it, especially when performed incorrectly. This is the topic we want to cover here, the positives and negatives of cold therapy to help you decide if it’s the right tool for pain management in your situation. We will provide some useful tips regarding how you should perform cryotherapy when you do it at home to keep you out of harm’s way. So, without further ado, let’s learn everything there is to know about one of the most commonly used treatments for injuries.
Ice application is one of the earliest and simplest methods used to treat an injury, lessen inflammation, numb pain, and diminish muscle soreness. It is a low-cost treatment that you can use at home via ice packs that you apply to the affected area, or more modernly using ice therapy machines that keep the temperature constant for a longer time. Guidelines provided by the New York Chiropractic College emphasize that treatment time should not exceed 30 minutes for most users, and 20 minutes tops for patients with poor circulation. As effective as this therapy might be, chances of frostbite are imminent when proceeding incorrectly.
Ice water immersion is a practice that has undergone quite a lot of debate over the years, with some specialists sticking by the claims that it helps with active recovery, while others debunk these benefits. The truth is that, as long as you are not forbidden ice therapy for health reasons and you’re not dangerously sensitive to cold, you should use this treatment after workouts or injuries. It does provide a certain level of pain relief, which is why people have continued using this therapy over the years.
A broad categorization of cryotherapy would include whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) and partial-body cryotherapy (PBC). Research has already proven that whole-body cryotherapy is effective for relieving inflammatory conditions. These results are what led to athletes resorting to WBC after intense practice or games. Patients with rheumatological conditions are often recommended WBC treatment for the pain relief it provides. Amid treatment, the patient enters a special tank or chamber that is cooled to -200 or -300 degrees Fahrenheit. This cryogenic therapy is not yet FDA-approved though, but the positive experience people have had with it made WBC a common practice. Go to a gym, spa, or wellness center to benefit from the curative effects of WBC.
PBC is not as novel as WBC is, and it has broader applications. It’s much more convenient considering that it can be performed at home. On the affected area, you can apply ice spray and ice packs, get an ice massage, or plaster the ice therapy machine’s wraps. Roughly 20 minutes of cold therapy with any of the aforementioned means at a time suffices to ameliorate pain and minimize any inflammation. When the time passes, a 20- to 30-minute minimum break is recommended before reapplying ice therapy.
Cryotherapy is beneficial for a variety of conditions and afflictions. Specialists recommend this practice more and more for the healing benefits it provides for patients who suffer from:
Clinical trials advise type 1 and 2 diabetes patients against ice therapy because of the inability of their bodies to maintain proper core temperature during thermal stress. The same goes for sauna use with diabetes sufferers. If you do opt for sweat sessions, make sure to keep the temperature tolerable so that your body can handle the thermal shift. But the list is longer than this. Other conditions contraindicate the application of PBC or WBC, namely:
Whether you pick the simple ice pack method or you use the modern ice therapy machine, the following benefits are what you will experience after treatment sessions. Just bear in mind to limit yourself when it comes to session length. Don’t let more than 20 minutes preferably pass without taking a break to avoid frostbite and other side effects that we will discuss after the pros section. Without further delay, here are the benefits of ice therapy:
Even if you have learned how to properly use the ice therapy machine or if you go to an expert for your cryotherapy treatment, there is still the chance to encounter some adverse reactions. Your biggest enemy when undergoing cold therapy is overuse. Conferring to this study, prolonged ice application can delay and even lengthen the recovery process. It can even lead to frostbite and nerve damage in the area where you applied the ice. So, whatever you do, make sure that you don’t let 20 minutes pass before taking a considerable break. Then, you can apply the ice pack, get in the frozen chamber, or use the ice therapy machine once more. Other than frostbite, these are some of the side effects that cold therapy might have on you:
When used properly, ice therapy is one of the most beneficial treatments that athletes can use for injury recovery, muscle soreness relief, and more. Non-athletes can benefit from this therapy as well for the same reasons, even for post-surgical recuperation in case there is areal inflammation. In this specific case, the doctor will likely recommend it. Since it’s a harmless therapy when performed correctly, you can get an ice therapy machine and undergo cold therapy whenever you want to ameliorate pain in various parts of your body. Just follow the advice we provided regarding proper use, namely don’t exceed the maximum 20-30 minutes of unremitted use, and you are safe from any unwanted side effects or, worst of all, frostbite.