Icing has long been considered as an integral part of recovery. It is part of the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) regimen used to treat acute injuries and swelling. It is a form of recovery treatment not only for the athletes but also for the general population. There are various forms of Cryotherapy such as cold water immersion, ice compression therapy, Cold air and ice baths.
Cryotherapy is advised after a high intensity exercise or workout session. These high intensity sessions lead to mechanical and metabolic stress. Pockets of swelling and damage to the muscle cause a drop in performance along with soreness and inflammation. There is an increase in core body temperature that can affect the chemical reactions in the body. Icing reduces the metabolic rate of the tissues reducing the stress and enhancing recovery. When the skeletal muscles are cooled, it helps in reducing contraction ability of the muscles, improves the blood supply and therefore washing out of waste products produced as a result of training.
Neuromuscular system consists of all the muscles and nerves in your body. For the muscles to perform any action, communication takes place between the muscles and the nerves and then the action is performed. This work is collectively done by the neuromuscular system. Cooling reduces the Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) of both sensory and motor neurons which reduces the sensation of pain and reflexive spasm.
The Cardiovascular system is responsible for delivering blood and nutrients to the working muscle. During a high intensity session, this system is worked hard. Cryotherapy lowers the heart rate and increases the cardiac output and the stroke volume. It helps in the faster recovery of the heart rate. Cryotherapy also plays a major role in improving heart rate variability (HRV- that’s a topic for another day).
Ideally full body cryotherapy should be done after every heavy training session, but it’s a bit difficult to get a tub full of ice cubes. Therefore at least local icing on the areas most used should be done after every training session.
In a clinical setting like at ProPhysio at Sportsmed Activ, we had to take into consideration everything from availability of a tub, ice, hygiene, privacy and ease of application. Therefore instead of a tub with Ice, we got a freezer and cold packs with pockets of water. These freeze over and can be applied with a bit of compression. The cold packs are designed for different body parts like neck, shoulders, forearms, back, thigh, knee, calf, foot and ankle to give a full body cryotherapy experience.