Rehabilitation specialists use it and more athletes are turning to it to
treat pain and inflammation. In fact, it’s drawing the attention
of many beauty experts and celebrities to boost metabolism and burn more
calories. What is this “new” fad? Cryotherapy, exposing the
whole or parts of the body to cold temperatures for the treatment of musculoskeletal
conditions, comes from the Greek
While the notion of exposing the body to extreme cold to achieve greater
health isn’t necessarily a new practice—people have been using
it as early as the seventeenth century—it is making a comeback,
especially for athletes. The truth is, cryotherapy is a technique we’ve
probably all used at some point in our lives and doesn’t necessarily
require an expensive trip to the spa. It’s an ideal form of therapy
among health and wellness experts to aid in quicker recovery to get athletes
back in the game.
“Besides reducing pain, cryotherapy has been proven to speed up
muscle recovery by constricting blood flow and thereby, reducing swelling
at the site of an injury,” said Joe Nowak, Physical Therapist at
CaroMont Rehab and Sports Medicine.
Most experts agree that cryotherapy should be the initial treatment for
acute injuries, such as muscle sprains or strains, and to help reduce
pain in post-operative procedures such as joint replacements. The most
common type of cryotherapy is an ice pack. Ice packs that contain crushed
ice are more effective because it conforms comfortably to the contours
of the injured area. If crushed ice is not available, a bag of small frozen
vegetables can be used (frozen peas work well). Other types of cryotherapy
include the gel packs and cold sprays.
While cryotherapy is generally safe for most people, Nowak says there are
some side effects to consider. Prolonged exposure to a cold modality may
lead to a frostbite injury. Other contraindications include, decreased
circulatory function or impaired circulation, increased sensitivity to
cold temperatures, peripheral vascular disease, Raynaud’s disease
(small arteries in the skin narrow, which limits blood circulation) and
decreased skin sensation or inability to feel hot or cold temperatures.
Regardless of the benefits and potential side effects of cryotherapy, you
should always consult an expert for the treatment of a musculoskeletal
injury to ensure safety and to promote long-term healing.
To view the interview with Time Warner Cable News about Cryotherapy, click