This article is courtesy of HPT athlete Hannah Otto, with image credit to @CXHairs.
As athletes, we are constantly in search of being better. Whether you’re a weekend warrior looking to beat your friends in your local group ride or a professional athlete plotting your next victory, we are all looking to improve our abilities and be better than we were yesterday.
Unfortunately, in the journey to betterment, we are often faced with adversity as well.
In the World of sport, there are athletes who have been injured and athletes who will become injured. It’s just a part of the game. It’s how we handle our injuries that really show what we are made of. Sometimes the treatment for an injury is quite simple and doing those simple things early can prevent the injury becoming worse or more complicated later.
Cryotherapy and thermotherapy are some of the most underrated ways to treat an injury. In fact, I think that these therapeutic modalities have gotten passed over because they appear to be ‘too simple.’ Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s ineffective.
As a Board-Certified Athletic Trainer, it’s my opinion that cryotherapy (or cold therapy) can actually be one of the best and most effective ways to treat an acute or initial injury. I find that most people don’t ice when they are told to because they think it’s a “cop out” treatment or it’s “too simple.” That’s why I’ve found that it’s best to explain the more complicated process happening when you ice in order to inspire people to take the simple, but highly necessary step to treating their injury.
Ice is best applied to acute injuries. When you first notice an ache or pain, ice is usually the best modality to use in the first 48 hours of the injury. The reason for this is that ice causes vasoconstriction which limits bleeding and swelling. Ice also decreases cell metabolism which prevents further damage in the area of injury as well as helps prevent the injury from spreading to surrounding, otherwise healthy, cells.
Cold also raises the nerve’s threshold which creates the analgesia effect (numbness). Additionally, it can decrease muscle guarding. The combination of decreasing pain through analgesia and limiting muscle guarding as well as limiting swelling can ultimately allow an athlete to maintain a better range of motion and return to rehabilitation exercises sooner than otherwise.
As a general rule of thumb ice for 30-60 minutes every 2 hours throughout the waking day. Continue this pattern for anywhere from 1 to 7 days depending on the severity of the injury.
It can be tough to ice a body part with our busy life schedules. The Feed has some great ways to be able to ice while on the move. Check out the following:
While ice should be applied after an initial injury, heat many be more applicable for chronic injuries that have been around for a while. Heat increases the extensibility of collagen tissues, decreases joint stiffness, relieves muscle spasm, increases blood flow, and more. Heat can allow for better stretching especially for areas of the body that are suffering from muscle fibrosis, joint capsule contracture, and scar tissue. Heat can also assist with the healing process. Heat is best applied for exercise or rehabilitation in order to literally warm up the affected area before movement. Here are some modalities that can be purchased on The Feed’s website for heat: