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Ice Away Pain with Cryotherapy


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 cryo meaning cold, and therapy meaning cure.

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 here.

Categories: Health