Cryotherapy , Contrast therapy , superficial heat therapy : these treatments pose the question on which one is the the best one?
There is no simple answer. The best way to answer this is by simply stating their benefits and explaining when and where these can be used as best as I can. So when choosing one please weigh the benefits and the contraindications.
Even by stating the benefits and contraindication of the therapy modalities. It's best to try all three in different circumstances in which they can be used. Like I always say , "knowledge is the key and experience is the master". So in the end knowing when to use different therapy modalities will help will muscle relaxation, treatment when it comes to injuries and rehabilitation.
In this article i will begin with explaining contrast therapy , mentioning it benefits and different techniques in applying contrast therapy to different parts of the body.
There is no good enough explanation to describe Contrast therapy. What one should know is that contrast therapy can be used by and physically active individual. Contrast therapy : quickly changes tissue temperature and most people believe that it helps with recovery and getting back into doing activities they enjoy quicker.
Contrast therapy is easy , cheap and affordable and not rocket science . But in so saying there are a few things that one needs to keep in mind :
Things to keep in mind :
When it comes to contrast therapy the most important safety thing , Don’t burn yourself. Even though this seems obvious and pretty much common sense I feel I have to mention it.
Avoid contrasting fresh injuries that hot, swollen, and/or red, because the heat aggravates inflammation more than the cooling phase can control. ice is the best option on a fresh injury (**** it's very important to note that never use ice on back pain) Preferrably wait at least 72 hours days for an injury like an ankle sprain to calm down a bit before you start contrasting it
Benefits of contrast therapy
Contrast therapy can be used as a standard treatment modality for musculoskeletal injuries : repetitive strain injuries in the extremities. Repetitive strain injuries = the need far more rest to recover and the use of any technique to stimulate tissues without stressing them is very valuable. Contrasting is also much easier and more practical and effective to apply to the limbs, so the best common candidates for contrasting are:
carpal tunnel syndrome
Knees injuries are a bit harder , but still easy enough to contrast with a little creativity, runner’s knee conditions, iliotibial band syndrome and patellofemoral syndrome.
Hips and shoulders awkward to contrast, because they are broader, thicker, and often more padded with fat. It is harder to change their temperature.
Ligament sprains are very slow healing, and often become chronically painful, long after it seems like they should have healed. it’s doubtful that contrasting will “accelerate healing” from a sprain, but it is worth applying — after the initial swelling has gone down.
Application of Contrast therapy
Heat and cool in roughly one-minute “make it good and hot, and then make it good and cold” you’re doing it right.
how many times should you cycle between hot and cold? Just a single time — one dose of hot, one dose of cold — is a minimal help. Three times is much more of a help.
. Be creative. - when applying contrast therapy to the body. There is not only one ultimate way of doing it.
If you have a double sink or buckets : Wrists, forearms, and elbows are generally the easiest body parts to contrast, fill one with hot water and one with cold and move back and forth.
If you only have one sink, alternating between hot and cold tap by changing the flow of water from the tap is a good alternative.
Wrapping forearms with heating pads and ice packs or soaked towels . Soaked towels are messy … but easy and kind of fun. 🙂
Feet also go for the using two buckets other than the kitchen sink as most people would not be limber enough to reach the sink counter. Also preventing injuries. Just make sure the buckets are big enough to fit your feet in with out causing discomfort.
Lower legs - I would opt for the double bucket option - deep buckets . But if you do not have these you can always go for soaked towel wrap or detachable shower nozzle very handy for contrasting - but immersion is more effective and also better for water conservation.
Knees again the bucket option Is the premium option, but for Some people this may be a difficult so immersing feet and lower leg then pouring water over the knees is probably the best .
The thighs and hips are difficult but one can use large soaked towel wraps or the shower . If you do have the option of getting a combination of hot bath with a large bin of cold water bath. it does feels great!
As mentioned, contrasting the back is not the greatest use of the method … but it is easy enough to do in the shower.
Things to note before any use of contrast therapy :
There are many ways to heat up and cool your body parts. Bear in mind that immersion is always better than a flow or spray: whenever possible, you want to surround the body part. The major delivery systems for temperature are:
immersion: in sinks, buckets or tubs
wrapping: in heating pads, ice packs, or soaked towels
pouring/spraying: immersion in a stream from a faucet, containers, removable shower head or hose
Contrasting should follow the following basic pattern:
Increase the intensity of the contrast as you go — hotter hot, colder cold — if practical. It’s easy with some methods.
about 2 minutes of heating: comfortably hot
about 1 minute of cooling: cool, not cold (unless you’re tough)
about 2 minutes of heating: hotter!
about 1 minute of cooling: colder!
about 2 minutes of heating: hot as you can handle
about 1 minute of cooling: cold as you can handle
Cold is does not sound great to anyone , but very tolerable when you’re properly pre-warmed.
A few tips and rules of thumb for contrast bathing
Stay warm. You generally want to be more thorough with your heat: at least a minute, but as long as five minutes depending on how efficient your heating method is. Heat is more comforting and relaxing than cooling, obviously, and inadequate heating is the most common thing people do wrong with contrasting.
Finish with cold. You should usually finish a contrast session with cold, particularly if you suspect that you might be a little inflammed. Never finish with heat if you’re concerned about aggravating inflammation. You might choose to finish with heat if your priority is to have a more relaxating experience.
Stretch when hot. Not that stretching is all that it’s cracked up to be, but if you choose to stretch, do it after or even during the heating. If you have to stop heating to stretch, reheat after stretching before moving on to the cold.
Dial it up as you go. It is desirable (though not always practical) to increase the intensity of the contrast as you go: that is, the hot gets hotter and the cold gets colder.
So please remember to be very careful and aware of your surrounding. Even though this is a safe , cheap and easy method of muscle therapy. There risks involved . Slipping , burning yourself , electrocution . So the use of common sense and great awareness is important.
I hope the article does help shade some light and also with muscle rejuvenation and rehabilitation.
To be continued on cryotherapy , superficial heat therapy and also other treatment modalities that can be beneficial with musculoskeletal injuries , recovery and rehabilitation.