Ice Therapy or Cryotherapy
Pain and muscle spasms are common responses to injury. Tendons and ligaments are tissues that connect muscles and bones to each other and to other tissues. The basic building material of muscles, tendons, and ligaments is a protein called collagen. Under normal conditions, collagen acts like a rubber band: It stretches when tension is applied (as when we pull a rubber band) and returns to its normal length when the tension is released. However, when the collagen is stretched too far, it tears. In this tearing process, blood vessels are torn and blood cells and fluid escape into the spaces among the muscle fibers. This is sometimes visible on the surface of the skin as a swollen, bruised area.
Cold applied to the area decreases the flow of this fluid into the tissues and slows the release of chemicals that cause pain and inflammation. Cold decreases feeling in an area by reducing the ability of the nerve endings to conduct impulses. It may also reduce pain by “countering” the injury. For example, you might counter the pain of a sore tooth by pinching yourself hard in the leg.
Cold also decreases the activity of cells to reduce swelling and internal bleeding at the site of acute injury. Cooling the deep tissue also reduces muscle spasm by reducing the muscle’s ability to maintain a contraction (contractility).
Because cold reduces bleeding and swelling within injured tissue, it is best used in the first 48 hours after an injury and usually longer after a surgery. However, cold therapy (cryotherapy) is not for everyone.
What are the types of Ice Therapy?
This technique uses simple bags such as a plastic bag, a hot water bottle, chemical cold packs or frozen vegetables. Technique- Dry the area first. Apply a dry terry cloth towel over the area to prevent direct contact of the ice to the skin. Apply your choice of cold to the area for no more than 20 minutes. The skin will pass through four stages of sensation in 10-15 minutes. These sensations in order are: 1.) Cold 2.) Burning 3.) Aching 4.) Numbness ** Cold therapy should be stopped once the skin feels numb.
Ice massage is another cyrotherapy technique. Place clean tap water into a foam cup and place in your freezer until it is completely frozen. Peel back a small amount of the top of the cup and massage this onto area of pain using constant circular motion. DO NOT hold the ice in one area for more than 3 minutes since this may cause frostbite. ** Cold therapy should be stopped once the skin feels numb.
Heat Therapy or Thermotherapy
While ice therapy is used to reduce swelling, heat therapy is used to relax the muscles and increase circulation. Both kinds of therapy help reduce pain. Heat therapy is often used in patients who have chronic, or long-lasting pain. Heat therapy can involve many kinds of methods, from simple heating pads, wraps, and warm gel packs, to sophisticated techniques, such as therapeutic ultrasound. Back injuries can create tension and stiffness in the muscles and soft tissues of the lumbar region, or lower back. In many cases, your circulation may be impeded. The tension in the muscles can sometimes escalate to spasms.
At Widenbaum Chiropractic we use moist heat pads from a temperature controlled hydroclator tank.
- Dilates the blood vessels of the affected muscles, allowing them to relax and begin healing
- Helps lower discomfort by reducing the amount of pain signals going to the brain
- Increases the ability of your muscles to easily flex and stretch, thereby decreasing stiffness
Heat therapy, as well as ice therapy, are normally a part of an overall chiropractic treatment plan.
Heat therapy is not used on swollen or bruised tissues, or in patients who have dermatitis, deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, open wounds, cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension.