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The benefits of cryotherapy after physical effort and in the recovery of sports injuries. Cryotherapy consists of the application of cold for therapeutic purposes, through the cooling of body tissues.
Cold can be applied locally or throughout the body (trunk and limbs). There are several methods of application: local, which uses ice (cubed or crushed), ice massage, cold spray, cold gel compress, chemical cold compresses (“instant cold”), cold towel, cold air , compression devices with cooling, cold bandages, among others. If the application is corporal, it may involve immersion in cold water, immersion in crushed ice, cold chamber, among others.
In this article, we will talk about the use of cryotherapy in sport.
Cryotherapy in sport
In sport, cryotherapy is used, above all, in traumatic soft tissue injuries, to reduce inflammation. The cooling of the tissues limits the inflammatory phenomenon, reducing the formation of edema, the bleeding of the tissues and the pain associated with musculoskeletal injuries.
In its body application (trunk and limbs), immediately after physical effort, cryotherapy is used to accelerate recovery, reducing the feeling of fatigue. This effect can enhance the subsequent physical performance and reduce the muscle pain that arises after sports activity.
Static or dynamic application
The local application of cold can be static or dynamic and can be associated with other rehabilitation techniques, such as massage (with ice), muscle-tendon stretching or pressotherapy.
In a local and static application it is usual to apply ice / cold compress for about 20 minutes - the duration can vary depending on the adipose tissue of the place to be treated. The use of crushed ice allows a better conformation to the anatomical structure to be treated.
Cryotherapy Benefits
The cooling of tissues has several beneficial biological effects:
• Cold causes vasoconstriction, which limits the perfusion of blood in the tissues and thus the appearance of edema and hemorrhage.
• The decrease in temperature also leads to the reduction of cellular metabolism, minimizing the destruction that occurs after the injury.
• The application of cold also has analgesic effects, activating fibers that will block the transmission of pain, by increasing the stimulation threshold of peripheral pain receptors and decreasing the speed of nerve transmission.
Cryotherapy contraindications
The use of cryotherapy in areas with changes in blood circulation (ischemia), sensitivity or open wounds is contraindicated. In athletes with hypersensitivity to cold, with Raynaud's phenomenon or with decompensated cardiovascular pathology, the application of cold should also be avoided.
Precautions to be taken during treatment
Direct application of the cooling source to the skin for excessive time can lead to a cold burn. The risk of injury can be minimized by using a “barrier” between the area to be treated and the cold source (towel, bandage) and limiting the duration of the application. In cold sources with a temperature below 0º C (such as a cold gel compress stored in the freezer), the risk of burns is greater.
The application in areas with little adipose tissue, such as the elbow or ankle, or in superficial paths of peripheral nerves (internal side of the elbow or lateral face of the knee) must be particularly careful.
Concluding ...
Cryotherapy is a useful treatment modality, easily accessible and low cost, with no negative side effects when complying with safety measures. Only rare cases of allergic reaction to the cold are described.


Alexandre Ichim