This month I am talking about cryotherapy on acute injuries. Cryotherapy is perhaps the simplest and oldest therapeutic modality in the treatment of acute injuries. It is the therapeutic application of any substance to the body that causes a decrease in body heat, resulting tissue temperature reduction.
An acute injury is an injury of rapid onset and is usually the result of a specific movement/impact or traumatic event. Acute injuries are either the result of extrinsic (outside your control) or intrinsic (within your own body/control) risk factors.
These injuries can occur to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, plus many more structures with the human body. Examples of acute injuries are fractures, dislocations, muscle/ligament/tendon strains etc.
The Effects of Cryotherapy
Whenever an injury occurs, there will always be some form of both inflammation and pain. It has long been believed that the use of cryotherapy as a treatment modality can aid in the reduction of both swelling and pain, both immediately and during the rehabilitation process.
Edema (swelling) occurs due to an increase in local blood flow, meaning that more blood is sent to the injured site. This is the body’s own self defense mechanism to prevent further damage to the area. However, too much swelling can result in an increase time to recovery, as this needs to be removed before sufficient treatment and rehabilitation can occur. This is where cryotherapy comes into play.
The application of cryotherapy causes a reduction in tissue temperature around the injured site resulting in constriction of the local blood vessels, therefore reducing blood flow and edema in the injured area. Also by minimising the amount of edema early on, this can help to reduce athlete pain as the nerve endings (which send signals to the brain indicating pain) at the injury site will not be as compressed and as a result the athlete will experience a smaller amount of pain.
Therefore, following an injury, the sooner cryotherapy is started; the greater the benefit for the athlete during their recovery.
What can be used for cryotherapy?
There are many different items that can be used for cryotherapy. These can be extremely simple and cheap or complex and expensive.
Below are just a few examples of each:
- Reusable frozen gel packs (Cheap)
- Instant ice packs (Cheap)
- Ice cubes in a plastic bag (Cheap)
- Game Ready Machine (Expensive)
- Cryo Cuff Machine (Expensive)
When applying cryotherapy, for best results in edema and pain reduction, apply with compression and elevation.