I have an aunt who’s 74. She’s been a runner since before running was popular and a mogul skier when taking runs had a different meaning in winter. She has survived melanoma that infiltrated her tricep and lymph nodes at age 29. She then survived breast cancer decades later, twice. A few years before retirement as a teacher at 64, she tore her meniscus jumping off a chair and into a squat - just to demonstrate that she could. This is a woman undeterred by obstacles and knee pain wasn’t going to get in the way of a vibrant retirement. Fast forward ten years and she is ready for a partial knee replacement. This included looking for information on applying contrast therapy to knee injury recovery.
She reached out to me for advice on how to prepare her body before and after the surgery. She wanted to know everything from exercises to build muscle to which bike to get for building endurance after surgery. This also included what type of healing modalities would best suit her while completing post-op physical therapy.
We discussed contrast therapy to increase blood flow and connective tissue range of motion. She could utilize cold & compression [Recoup’s Cryosleeve] to reduce joint inflammation and heat [Recoup’s Thermosleeve] to up blood flow . We set her goal to alternating cold/hot every two minutes for about ten minutes, finishing with cold compression.
Check out this blog about hot and cold therapy for a more detailed perspective.
According to the Pain Physician, contrast therapy works like this:
[“Cryotherapy is defined as the therapeutic application of any substance to the body that removes heat from the body, resulting in decreased tissue temperature. Cryotherapy decreases tissue blood flow by causing vasoconstriction, and reduces tissue metabolism, oxygen utilization, inflammation, and muscle spasm.
...Thermotherapy is the therapeutic application of any substance to the body that adds heat to the body resulting in increased tissue temperature. Heat therapy, which can be either superficial or deep, is like cryotherapy in that it provides analgesia and decreased muscle tonicity. Unlike cryotherapy, thermotherapy increases tissue temperature, blood flow, metabolism, and connective tissue extensibility.” ]
Simply put, cold therapy works great to address joint inflammation and swelling. Heat functions to increase blood flow and ease muscle tension due to guarding. Heat also aids in increasing range of motion. Both modalities help reduce pain.
Because contrast therapy works around joints and soft tissue alike, its benefits reach beyond knees. It also works well for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and acute trauma like a sprain or muscle bruise.
Heat therapy is also a good application for chronic conditions such as:
- plantar fasciitis
- achilles tendinitis
- tennis elbow
- rotator cuff strain
Overall, both heat and cold treatments work well in reducing pain associated with acute or chronic pain. The best results have been found in participants using continuous application.
What does the road to surgery look like?
My aunt has been using contrast therapy to reduce pain and inflammation pre-surgery. The Cryosleeve I gifted her when she made the commitment to schedule a surgery has been her main modality. It has enabled her to continue walking, practice yoga, and bike. Contrast therapy is a great method for relief of arthritis, tennis elbow and other chronic injuries.
Use contrast therapy once to twice per day for a week to see if you have a reduction in symptoms. Likewise, applying contrast therapy to knee injury recovery could be a great tool to get you back to doing what you love.