It’s hot out, so now might be a good time to try incorporating cold therapy into workout routines and in recovery.
According to numerous studies published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website, cold therapy has been shown to have a positive effect on pain reduction and recovery. It’s especially suited for acute injuries, for a reduction in hemorrhaging (bleeding), edema (swelling), and in relieving arthritis discomfort. In general, it is believed that cold therapy flushes waste products from tissue and decreases metabolic activity. The effects of this treatment are dependent on how it’s applied, the initial temperature of the cold used, and the application time.
It is commonly believed that spot treatment can help with micro trauma to healthy tissues as well as help with injuries. An easy way to utilize cold therapy in this form is through ice packs and other home implements, such as the Trigger Point Performance Cold Roller (commonly used for plantar fasciitis pain). Some inexpensive and simple ways to spot apply cold are as follows:
Don’t have a commercial ice pack on hand? Use bags of frozen corn or peas, especially for the eye area.
Apply at least three times daily for as long as there is pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Keep a cloth between ice packs left in place and skin.
Applications should not last longer than 15–20 minutes at a time, and don’t fall asleep with an ice pack on the skin.
An ice bath goes a step beyond spot treatment in that a larger application area is treated and the temperature will be lower, typically about 54 degrees Fahrenheit. While many Austin-area runners swear by standing in Barton Creek or taking a dip in Deep Eddy, neither of these cooler waters (typically 70 degrees Fahrenheit) reaches the temperature of an ice bath.
Submerging areas in cold water causes blood vessels to tighten, which restricts blood flow. As the area then warms, new blood rushes in, bringing oxygenated blood to the tissues. Many athletes use ice baths to relieve delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that painful achiness in muscles that comes 24–72 hours after heavy exercise.
This method of cold therapy reduces the temperature of the entire body, bringing the skin surface temperature to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in less than a minute. Sessions last approximately three minutes.
Caulen Lauria, owner of Cryo Body Works, has worked with Paralympic snowboarder Evan Strong and F1 development driver Alexander Rossi. He noted that there are “tremendous benefits” for athletes, with as much as five times the positive effects from traditional icing. In addition to utilizing cryotherapy for recovery and to ease muscle and joint pain, Lauria pointed out that cyotherapy has also shown to be helpful in some skin conditions, such as psoriasis, itching, acne, and sunburn. The endorphins released with the intense cold can be beneficial.
This is the most expensive cold therapy option, as treatments can start at $55 for a single session and multiple sessions are recommended (package pricing is available).