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Disparate Findings of Cryotherapy (Cold therapy)

Applying ice to soft tissue injuries, such as an ankle sprain within the initial 72 hours of the acute phase, has been the adhered protocol for many years. This procedure does present a reduction in swelling and pain, therefore proving that it has an anti-inflammatory response to the injured site (J Clin Cases, 2021; Zhang J et al, 2014). If muscle has suffered a minor injury, cryotherapy may reduce muscular spasms, muscle soreness and ease pain. This works by reducing the blood flow to the injured site. However, the time frame in which ice is applied, needs to be monitored, a recommended duration of up to 20 minutes a few times a day and for 72 hours is advised (Mutlu, S., & Yılmaz, E. 2020).  This is to ensure the neuromuscular system continues to function as intended.

Blood supply to the muscles is much greater than that of tendons, therefore soon after the acute phase, the circulatory system needs to be activated to encourage promotion of healing to the site. Especially for tendons, with a poorer blood supply. This involves regeneration of muscle fibres (J Clin Cases, 2021; Palmieri RM et al, 2004).

This suggests that individuals can assist the body’s healing process and reduce the inflammatory response but should not continue icing the site for a prolonged time. Afterall, the body’s natural response to an injury such as a sprain, is inflammation, which is supposedly an essential aspect of recovery itself. Notwithstanding, persistent swelling has been shown to have adverse effects on recovery, commonly seen in joint sprains such as the ankle (Scott A et al, 2004).

Discussion of Cryotherapy

 In conclusion, prolonged or severe swelling has been demonstrated to impede the healing response and recovery process. So, in the case of more severe injuries or inflammation it may be advised that the person should adhere to the RICE protocol for the initial 72 hours of the injury. This will help to decrease the presence of edema (Mutlu, S., & Yılmaz, E. 2020). Ice also has an analgesic effect on the injured site, which aids patients with pain managements in acute injuries such as sprains, when skin temperature reaches an optimal of 13.6 degrees Celsius (Mutlu, S., & Yılmaz, E. 2020); Bleakley et al, 2004).

This pain is subsequently reduced, as there is an increase in the number of endogenous opioids. The ‘gate control theory’, suggests that cryotherapy reduces blood flow to the area, along with the velocity of nerve conduction. Furthermore, nociceptive receptors (sensory receptors that detect signals from damaged tissue), are inhibited, lessening experienced pain (Holden, 2005; Mutlu, S., & Yılmaz, E. 2020).  

However, in minor soft tissue injuries where there is less swelling for a shorter period of time, icing will delay the recovery process, rather than help (J Clin Cases, 2021). Suggesting that ice should only be used, when necessary, in more severe swelling soft tissue injuries. Future studies are needed, in relation to cold therapy and injury recovery. This will help clarify the proposed research question, whether Ice is a help or a hinderance. It is also difficult to determine whether the ice alone helps, as it is normally used within the RICE protocol (Bleakley et al, 2004).

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