Do I need to be an athlete to benefit from cold therapy?
The short answer is no, you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from cold therapy.
A little longer answer is that cold therapy isn’t for everyone and all situations.
We have more details on cold therapy below:
How Does Cold Therapy Work?
Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, uses cold/cooling treatments to help muscles and joints recover faster as well as relieve pain associated with injuries.
Cold therapy works by reducing blood flow to a targeted area for a short period of time to reduce inflammation, swelling, and nerve activity.
When it comes to pain relief, the cold reduces the sensitivity of nerve endings, slowing down the communication between your body and your brain. This causes you to feel less pain in the affected area (source).
On a cellular level, therapeutic cold treatments help slow cellular metabolism, which means that the metabolic rate of damaged cells slows down. The less cells that are damaged, the less work your body needs to do to repair affected areas, which results in a faster recovery time.
Also, exposure to cold therapy makes your blood vessels constrict, and when the cold is removed, your blood vessels overcompensate and dilate, bringing with it a rush of freshly oxygenated blood and nutrients to those critical areas of your body, which also helps you recover faster.
Is Cold Therapy Effective?
Studies have shown that cold therapy is effective for pain relief, can speed up healing time, offer improved recovery and performance in athletes, and soothe repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, trigger finger, cubital tunnel syndrome, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis. Many doctors recommend cold therapy for post-surgical rehabilitation to help with pain reduction as well as lessen the swelling and inflammation in the surgical area (source).
Some athletes are known for jumping into ice baths to speed up recovery times from intense workouts and training sessions, like so:
If you think ice cold baths are much too extreme for you, it’s not the only way to practice cold therapy treatments. Even using an ice pack, cold compress, or over-the-counter coolant sprays, rubs, and ointments like Biofreeze and CryoDerm count as other forms of cold therapy.
Cold Massage Roller Ball for Cold Therapy
For quick recovery from muscle pain, some people find that combining cold therapy with massage therapy is a great muscle-relaxing solution that helps target soreness and knots in your muscles. This cryosphere from Recoup Fitness may be used for pre- and post-workout recovery.
Cold therapy is not for every situation, and in some cases, heat therapy would actually work better. If you have Raynaud’s Syndrome or Rheumatoid Arthritis in particular, cold therapy may not be the best solution for you.
However, if you are going to explore cold therapy to help treat any injuries or sprained muscles, be sure to avoid applying ice or cold packs directly to your skin (use a towel or cloth to separate your skin from the cold pack) and do not apply the cold pack for more than 15 minutes at a time so that you don’t risk getting frostbitten.
If you have any concerns about using cold therapy as a treatment and are not sure how you should apply it to your situation, be sure to consult with your doctor or other health professional.