Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Now you may think of Cryotherapy as the latest sport's science phenomena used by elite athletes. These athletes enter a cold tank, sit for around 5 minutes, and walk out feeling as good as new. However, Cryotherapy is actually any use of low temperatures in medical therapy. Today we are going to discuss the applications of cryotherapy and it's physiological significance in injury management.
How does Cryotherapy work?
Cryotherapy works by transferring energy away from the target tissue, resulting in a reduction in local tissue temperature. This reduction in local tissue temperature triggers physiological changes within the body such as:
- Reduction in Blood Flow
- Reduction in Metabolic Rate
- Reduction in the conduction of pain receptors (nociceptors)
- Stimulation of endogenous opioids (pain relievers)
- General reduction in bleeding, swelling and oedema
How can Cryotherapy be successful for me?
Through understanding the physiological effects of cryotherapy, we can begin to understand it's therapeutic uses. We can use cryotherapy in acute injury management to treat pain and spasm, as well as joint effusion (swelling). In the acute stage of injury (0-48 hours), the induced reduction of blood flow serves t0 protect the tissue from further damage. In the presence of chronic inflammation - such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis - we can once again use cryotherapy to reduce the severity of swelling.
When combined with the following, cryotherapy is most successful, RICE:
What we need to be careful about:
- Circulatory problems (such as diabetes)
- Conditions which increase sensitivity to cold (such as Raynaud's disease)
- Cold 'Allergies'
- Sensory Loss (if unsure, can perform a sensation test)
To learn more about the effects of cryotherapy and how it could help your condition, please get in contact with one of our expert physiotherapists!