How do you know if you should be using cold therapy?
For the purpose of this article, I will be focusing on Cold Therapy…we’ll get to hot therapy in a future article.
The first thing I would always recommend is that you check with your physician to be sure you’re using the proper therapy for your condition. Using the inappropriate hot versus cold therapy can actually cause even further tissue damage.
Let me start with some basic reasons why you may want to use cold therapy and then I’ll briefly go into some of the reasons why ice therapy can be helpful.
Top 5 Reasons for Cold Therapy
- Pain Relief
- Reduction of Swelling
- Reduction of Blood Loss
- Reduction of Muscle Spasms
- Reduction of Cell Death
Pain relief is probably the most common use of Ice Therapy. There are several different theories as to why cold therapy is so effective for relieving pain. Like blood flow, cold seems to also slow down the electrical impulses going to your brain telling you you’re in pain. It also seems to raise the body’s threshold to tolerate pain possibly by the release of extra endorphins (the body’s natural pain reliever).
The reduction in swelling and blood loss is pretty much controlled by the same process. Cold causes the blood vessels to contract (narrow). Since excessive blood flow to the injured area causes swelling, just like a cut or a bloody nose, narrowing of the blood vessels themselves will reduce the amount of blood getting to the area of concern, thus a reduction in swelling and or bleeding.
When talking about muscle spasms, generally you think of heat, however cold can also be very effective in reducing spasms! In a number of cases, pain is actually the cause of a muscle spasm so by reducing the pain, you also reduce the muscle spasm.
As for the cell death, when you have an acute injury, cold therapy can reduce the rate of cell death by reducing the need for oxygen to the affected area by slowing down the metabolic rate.
Obviously, this is a very brief explanation and does not encompass all of the factors involved, hopefully it’s given you a little better understanding of what cold therapy can be used for and why it can be helpful.