Cryotherapy a.k.a. “Icing”

Everyone is familiar with using ice as a recovery tool, but do we really know why that is. Today our ESP trainers will break down this form of therapy, less commonly known as cryotherapy, and the reasons why medical professionals, fitness trainers, and others use it daily.

Cryotherapy refers to a variety of cold applications that can be utilized to aid in recovery after exercise or to treat an injury. Cryotherapy can be used for both acute or chronic ailments. Your acute ailments would include your typical sports injury, surgery, etc. While your chronic ailments include tendonitis and other long term issues. Some of the more common ways of using cryotherapy include are:

  • Ice bath or cold whirlpool
  • Ice bags, towels, packs
  • Ice cups

 While some of the less known ways include:

  • Cold compression units
  • Cryogenic chamber or cold air therapy

Each type of cryotherapy can be viewed as more or less beneficial for different areas of your body and your goal for aid or recovery. An ice bath or whirlpool is much more beneficial for whole body cooling than just icing your elbow, while an ice bag is great for icing only a certain area. Ice cups, which is a preferred method by myself, offers an icing treatment while also performing a self-massage over said area. Utilizing an ice cup also has a smaller treatment time when compared to using an ice bag for those time crunched individuals.
 Although most think that icing only has effects on muscles, nothing could be further from the truth. It has been documented that both sensory and motor nerves have been effected with the use of cryotherapy. With nerves being the pathways for pain signals, those who use cryotherapy can have a significant reduction in pain.
Nerves are not the only other thing effected by cryotherapy, several studies have shown improved cardiac efficiency as well noting a lower heart rate, increased cardiac output and increased stroke volume.
 All in all, our ESP trainers know how soreness can affect your performance. We wanted to share some knowledge to our athletes about what tactics we use and confide in. Hopefully this will help you make a better choice of which method is best. Here are a couple hints and tricks to aid in your endeavors:
Ice Bath

  • Buy two big bags of ice at the gas station, don’t raid the freezer. Mom will get mad and there won’t be enough ice anyway.
  • Wear socks so that your toes don’t freeze
  • As terrible as it may sound, keep moving the water around in the tub. Your lower legs and butt will become warm just by sitting on the tub and you want those areas to get cold.
  • The first 1-4 minutes are brutal. Try to gut through it and the rest of the 10-15 minutes will be a breeze. Don’t stay in any longer than 20 minutes.

Ice Cup

  • Take a paper Dixie cup and fill it with water. Put them in the freezer and keep them on hand for when you need them.
  • Tear off the paper as needed when you do your ice massage
  • Have a towel handy as the melting ice will become…. You guessed it, water.

Ice Pack/Bag/Towel

  • Try to get all the air out of the Ziploc bag if you use that for ice.
  • Ice towels are nice because you can just throw them in the wash when you are done! Not to mention green!
  • Ice packs can be nice to have however they get warm quickly so have a few on hand for a 20 minute icing session.