Cryotherapy | Scott Malcolm | Dallas, TX
Introduction on Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy is the use of low temperatures to facilitate healing. This can range from a local application of ice packs to intentionally inducing hypothermia through special devices for cold therapy. When applied to the whole body, it can even cause the release of endorphins, which will provide additional pain-relief. Cryotherapy is commonly used to treat skin disorders (cryosurgery) and as a means to speed recovery after surgery (hilotherapy). Additionally, cold therapy is also being used to treat migraines and diseases for which you wouldn’t expect it, like abnormal growth inside the uterus. Finally, cold therapy has also found application in the field of fat loss for spot-reduction (cryolipolysis).
On this page we will focus on how cold therapy can be used to treat joint pain and injuries. More specifically, there are a number of factors you need to pay attention to when self-administering cold therapy and if you miss those, you will do more harm than good.
The lower temperatures decrease swelling by lowering internal bleeding in injured joint. By keeping the swelling low and thereby restricting the number of cells in the injured area, you’re making sure that there is enough oxygen for all cells. Since the cold therapy also reduces cell metabolism, the need for oxygen is decreased even further. This is also why preventing excessive swelling is so important: by limiting the number of cells at the site it prevents unnecessary cell death that would occur due to lack of oxygen.
In summary, the purpose of cold therapy is to slow down the metabolism of the cells, thereby decreasing swelling, the need for oxygen, and unnecessary cell death. Additionally, the application of cold packs also decreases inflammation and pain.
Depending on where you injure yourself, rest, ice, and elevation may not be an option, but there’s always a way to apply pressure to a joint. For an ankle sprain in basketball this could be as simple as keeping that sneaker on and pulling the laces tight. Using a compression dressing is even better of course.
The only way you won’t have to make a trade-off between the icing and the compression is by using a professional ice pack. With home-made solutions you’ll decrease the cooling effect if you have the compressive wrap underneath the ice or you’ll compromise the compression, if you have the ice underneath the compressive wrap. This is far from ideal of course, but still better than nothing. Usage of a professional ice pack is much superior though.
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