When you train, you put a lot of stress on the muscles. This results in muscle damage which is required for muscle growth. Or in worst cases, actual injury. It is vital to have various options at your disposal to use for optimum recovery in either situation.
Over the last decade, the use of cold treatment has become a very common choice among pro-athletes. We have all seen a video where an athlete jumps into an ice bath after a game or training session. This popularity has trickled down into mainstream athletics, which begs the question, does it work?
The Efficacy of Cold Therapy Pain
Cold therapy has long been known to possess analgesic effects and reduce pain, both acute and chronic. I’m sure we have all used an ice pack to put on our knee after knocking it on a table.
Still, it’s effect is much more profound than that.
After ACL reconstruction, the use of cold therapy significantly reduced the need of toxic pain medication (Vicadin) and the overall pain of patients. Further, it enhanced their recovery and increased ROM as well.
Cold replacing the need of powerful painkillers is a big statement!
You can only train as hard as you can recover. And cold therapy can help with that.
A study put the ice bath, sports massage, and rollers to the task to see which one produced the most significant recovery effects. All methods were able to improve the recovery of trainees; however, the ice bath came out on top of all aspects of recovery. This included the removal of lactate from muscles and reducing DOMS. Further, trainees also experienced less discomfort from general soreness.
One of the more extensive reviews of published literature examined 17 studies. They concluded that when being used for recovery, cold therapy can decrease the duration and intensity of DOMS, decrease fatigue, and even improve performance.
Being injured is not fun. Luckily, multiple cold therapy methods have been used to enhance and quicken the recovery process of various injuries. In fact, the practice of PRICE, or RICE, which uses cold therapy, is the recommended form of treatment for acute injuries.
Still, cold therapy is also effective in the management of chronic rehab.
When cryotherapy was used within 36 hours of a grade 4 ankle sprain (unable to bear weight), patients were able to return to full use in just 13.2 days. Compare this to patients who started cryotherapy after 36 hours of injuries and patients who used other recovery methods. Both of these other groups took longer than 30 days to full recovery!
Different forms of cold therapy can also improve the healing time and overall functional capacity of musculoskeletal injuries.
When it comes to recovery, the ultimate goal is getting back to normal activity and work. Using cold therapy can do just that. A meta-analysis reviewed numerous studies that looked at cold therapies’ effect on returning to normal behavior. They concluded that using cold therapy has a positive relationship to getting back to training and making money!
How Does Cold Therapy Work?
Cold therapy works through various mechanisms.
- Vasoconstriction- When an area of the body experiences a drop in temperature, the blood vessels contract slowing blood flow to the area. The decreased blood flow reduces edema and the delivery of inflammatory mediators, thus mitigating inflammation.
- Decreases Metabolic Demand- A decrease in metabolic demand to an injured area can prevent further damage of cells.
- Reduction of Muscle Activity- When the temperature of a muscle decreases, it’s activity also decreases. This can prevent further damage done to the area.
- Cold-induced Neurapraxia- The fancy term to describe the analgesic effect of applying cold to an area. This occurs by “decreasing the activation threshold of tissue nociceptors and the conduction velocity of nerve signals conveying pain”
How to Use Cold Therapy
There are various ways to use cold therapy, which are dependent on the purpose. Most methods involve alternating ice and heat therapy. Some use continuous therapy. Your use of cold therapy will vary according to your specific needs.
The most important factor!!!!
You need to begin cold therapy soon after your training or injury. This is why having a tool like our Cryosphere Cold Ball Massager or Cryosleeve on hand is vital.
Whether you want to use it for recovery or to treat an injury, you need to be prepared.
You already dedicate so much time and energy into your training; you deserve to make it all count.