The last time you hurt yourself exercising or playing a sport, you probably included cryotherapy in your recovery. Cryotherapy involves applying cold to an injured area to help ease symptoms and speed healing. Although ice packs are the most common treatment, today’s methods of cryotherapy take a high-tech approach to both acute and chronic injuries.
Sudden pain during any kind of movement is a sign of acute injury. Often the result of trauma, these injuries can stop you in your tracks and take you away from your sport or exercise regimen for days, weeks or even months. Common acute problems include:
- Torn ligaments or tendons
- Muscle tears
You can usually identify what caused your injury, and the associated pain is worse than pain from chronic conditions.
Sometimes acute damage becomes chronic, such as when an injury leads to an excessive buildup of scar tissue or leaves a “weak spot” in your body. These problems can come to a head at any time, whether you overuse a previously damaged area while playing sports or simply move the wrong way during daily tasks. The dull, persistent aches and pains of chronic injuries can limit your range of motion and your ability to make the most of your usual active lifestyle.
Whole Body vs. Localized Cryotherapy
Modern cryotherapy is being used to treat both acute and chronic conditions. Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) takes place in a chamber similar to a sauna in which temperatures become very cold instead of steamy. During a WBC treatment:
- Liquid nitrogen cools the skin
- Pressure inside the chamber drops to further reduce temperature
- The temperature is maintained for two to four minutes
Localized cryotherapy operates on the same premise, streamlining the procedure to direct cold specifically at the injured area. These spot treatments may be performed alone or as an addition to WBC.
Proponents and practitioners of both types of cryotherapy cite increased circulation and a heightened nervous system response as the reason why super-cooling the body works to improve healing from injuries. A potential boost in metabolic rate may also allow the body to “clean up” damaged tissue more quickly. Taken together, these effects can result in faster recovery, less pain, reduced muscle soreness and an earlier return to your favorite activities.
Local Cryo Benefits
If you’re considering cryotherapy to treat a sports injury or pain from exercise, localized treatments may be preferable. Choosing local cryo:
- Reduces blood flow to lessen inflammation in specific areas
- Eases pain
- May help prevent lasting damage
- Lowers the potential risks of being exposed to below-freezing temperatures
Many people also find local cryotherapy treatments to be more comfortable and convenient. The use of more compact equipment keeps the cost down, and targeting a particular area may provide greater benefits for the injured body part. Localized cryotherapy is meant to pinpoint an injury and deliver relief directly to sore spots.
Cryotherapy is already a familiar option for sports injuries, and modern methods may make the treatment more effective. Getting a localized treatment from a knowledgeable provider with the right equipment ensures you receive just the right amount of cold to address your injury and get you back in the game faster than traditional methods.