Cryotherapy influences hemodynamic, metabolic and neuromuscular processes.
Ice application causes vasoconstriction, meaning the width of the capillaries decreases in size, which reduces local blood flow to the injured area. Like using a thinner hosepipe to water your garden. This decrease in blood vessel diameter happens because the cold temperature causes the smooth muscle within the blood vessel to contract. Once the tissue cools down the release of histamine and prostaglandins, both ingredients of inflammation, is also limited. Less inflammatory ingredients = less swelling.
With this reduction of circulation, the cellular metabolism decreases too, which further reduces the temperature of the injured limb. Because of the Lewis Hunting reaction, which states that a limb exposed to cold therapy undergoes alternating vasoconstriction and vasodilatation, the blood vessels widen after 10 minutes of cold exposure. This in turn increases circulation and temperature in the area once again. Pumping action is created the longer cold compression is applied because of this phenomenon.
Applying ice causes local anesthesia, without any of the side effects of oral medication. This reduction in pain is caused by reducing the speed of the nerve conduction velocities. This conduction velocity will decrease in proportion to duration and drop in temperature caused by ice therapy. This happens because of the gate control mechanism, where the body is more pre occupied by the cold messages than the pain messages. This gives us the window of opportunity to get started with range of movement exercises while your pain is less.
The effect of cryotherapy depends on the method, duration and temperature. Our physiotherapists have in depth knowledge of your body’s anatomy, physiology, and injury recovery and will advise you on what to do at home.