Cold therapy is a non-medical treatment strategy for acute soft-tissue injuries. It helps to reduce pain and inflammation, thus promoting speedy healing. This type of therapy is very common among athletes who are susceptible to serious soft-tissue injuries and muscle pain after vigorous exercises and sporting activities. This article talks about the effect of cold therapy on muscles.
How the Cold Therapy Affects Muscles
First of all, the effect of cold therapy, which is also referred to as cryotherapy, on your muscles will depend on the method, time, and temperature of the ice, and the depth of your subcutaneous fat. Secondly, this therapy is meant to create a Lewis Hunting reaction, which is the process of interchanging vasoconstriction and vasodilation in extremities exposed to cold. The name Lewis is derived from Thomas Lewis, who was the first person to describe this effect in 1930. Vasoconstriction is the first thing that happens when you put ice on your skin. It is a mechanism through which your body prevents heat loss. It also leads to strong cooling of the extremities.
After about ten minutes of cold therapy, your blood vessels in the extremities experience sudden vasodilation. This reaction is linked to the sudden reduction in the discharge of neurotransmitters from the sympathetic nerves to your muscular coat on the arteriovenous anastomoses because of the localized cold. Through vasodilation, there is increased blood flow and, subsequently, the temperature in the targeted area. But a new stage of vasoconstriction happens immediately after vasodilation, which then repeats itself.
Cold therapy also increases blood flow in the deeper muscles, while reducing blood flow in the superficial muscles that are closer to the skin. Contrary to what many people think, a decrease in blood flow significantly promotes healing in the affected area since cold therapy partly reduces tissue swelling. Therefore, less noxious cooling can be very effective by reducing blood flow in the superficial muscles and minimizing a sharp increase in blood flow in the deeper muscles.
Since this deep muscle activation cannot be investigated using surface electromyography (EMG), it can only be interpreted as the body’s physiological response to maintaining core temperature when exposed to extremely cold temperatures. The cold therapy also numbs the sore tissues in the injured area, serving as local anesthesia. Professional athletes also use this therapy to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), thus preventing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). For more information on cold therapy, talk to Supply PT today.