Cold Therapy For Athletes
For many athletes, athletic training typically requires intense multiple daily training sessions push them into a state of "super compensation" where the body naturally adapts to stress by using its resources to become stronger, fitter, and faster. The path towards super-compensation is a tough one that oftentimes leads to a lot of pain and soreness, and icing or cold therapy is the best way for athletes to manage the pain.
At first, when you start icing sore muscles, it tends to be a bit painful, but once you let it sit for longer, it numbs the pain away. Instead of aspirin, athletes can use cold therapy to numb away the pain and help their muscles recover. Because of its vast benefits, cold therapy has become so prominent that even high schools and colleges offer ice packs and ice tubs to help the players as a post-injury ritual in every sport.
What Cold Therapy Does to Sore Muscles
While heat therapy increases blood flow, cold therapy works in the opposite way. You may think increased blood flow is suitable for your muscles, but that is not always the case when you have injuries. When you have muscle spasms, inflammation, soreness, and cramps, you will need cold therapy and not heat therapy to soothe your muscles. The use of cold therapy works by restricting your blood vessels and reducing the amount of blood flowing into the injured area.
You will notice immediately when you apply cold therapy; your body will stop the swelling and inflammation (cold constricts blood vessels which reduces blood flow towards the injured area). The ice will also numb away the pain. Typically, injury means that blood rushes into the hurt area, resulting in inflammation and pain as the body sends its all to that area to heal it. But once you've constricted the amount of blood rushing to your injured muscles, you will recover quickly and be back to the field, offering nothing short of 100%.
Types of Cold Therapy For Athletes
There are varying ways to apply cold therapy for athletes. Historically, most people used ice packs or cold packs to ice the area. However, more recently there are more efficient and convenient options for cold therapy, including cold therapy machines. The machines work by pumping ice cold water from a cooler into area-specific pads to delivery targeted and effective cold therapy for up to 10 hours.
Studies prove that applying cold therapy a few hours after your workout can help reduce blood flow by approximately 50% in just ten minutes. Imagine what extended amount of cold therapy treatment can do. Additionally, cold therapy also reduces the metabolic rate in the injured muscle, which in turn reduces secondary hypoxic injury.
Cold Therapy Don'ts
While cold therapy is an excellent tool for injured athletes, you must be careful when applying this form of therapy to prevent further hurt. Never apply a cold therapy pad directly to your skin. When applying cold therapy, always put a piece of cloth or rug between your skin and the cold to save your skin. Typically a thin towel, t-shirt, or leggings will work just fine.
If you also have an open wound, it is advisable to avoid cold therapy because it could result in more damage. If you have sensory illnesses like diabetes, it could prevent you from feeling certain sensations, and you shouldn't participate in cold therapy.
Athletes push their bodies a lot in the field. Pushing yourself either in the field or even the gym can sometimes result in injuries, sprains, muscle spasms, and soreness. Once you use cold therapy well, you can cut down recovery time immensely, which allows you to get back to your regular workout routine or the field in a very short time. Cold therapy helps prevent inflammation and reduces pain. It is the simplest way to reduce pain without taking painkillers.
Aim to use cold therapy in the early hours of injury or during the first twenty-four hours because that's when inflammation takes place. If you wait for seventy hours to pass, you should probably use heat therapy or interchange between heat and cold therapy because cold therapy alone won't be as effective after you've waited that long.