Cryotherapy – Ice for Healing Running Injuries
Icing is a core part of my recovery process and I've consistently found it to dramatically improve muscle healing. Short periods of ice (~20 minutes) will reduce blood flow which may limit further damage due to excessive inflammation. Longer periods (several hours) of icing increases blood flow, which improves healing. It's vital to use ice (frozen water), not a gel pack to prevent skin damage and for effectiveness.
1 Cold Induced Vasodilatation
Cold initially reduces blood flow, but after about 20 minutes the body increases blood flow, possibly to prevent skin damage. This is called Cold Induced Vasodilatation (CIVD) and has been known about since 1930). It's important to stay warm overall while icing a muscle, as reduced body temperature prevents CIVD. This alternating reduction in inflammation and increased blood flow is believed to act as a 'pump', speeding up heeling. This cycle typically takes a few minutes, as shown below.
2 The (Lack) of Science
There is remarkably little science produced on Cold Induced Vasodilation. A 2004 analysis of the available research at the time stated "Currently, no authors have assessed the efficacy of ice in the treatment of muscle contusions or strains. Considering that most injuries are muscle strains and contusions, this is a large void in the literature." A 2008 study stated in its conclusion "There is insufficient evidence to suggest that cryotherapy improves clinical outcome in the management of soft tissue injuries"Cite error: Closing
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