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Hot & cold therapy on the body can speed up recovery from workouts & injury. Why this is so?


As an Olympian and World Champion rower and now GB age group triathlete, I have used hot and cold therapy to help me recover from tough workouts and injury.

When you sustain an injury, it will often result in inflammation, swelling and pain at the site. In this acute situation, it is helpful to apply a cold pack to the affected area as soon as possible. The cold pack can be applied for up to 20 minutes at a time and this can be repeated at 2 hourly intervals for up to 72 hours. This will reduce the inflammation and swelling and therefore ease the pain. The acronym ‘PRICE’ is used to describe Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate. Doing all of these can help prevent your injury from progressing and promote healing. Cold therapy is particularly useful for sprains and strains, bumps and bruises. If you do not have an ice pack handy, you could instead use deep freeze spray or a deep freeze patch. These allow you to apply cold therapy in any situation on the go.

More chronic pain that recurs can be effectively treated with heat therapy. This dilates the blood vessels and therefore increases blood flow to the area, which promotes healing by increasing delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Heat therapy can also decrease muscle spasm and increase range of motion-this can ease pain. A heat pack can be used for this or a Deep Heat product such as deep heat rub or spray.

Contrast therapy is the use of alternating hot and cold therapies to treat an injury. It is thought that this works by causing alternating blood vessel spasm and dilatation, thereby creating a ‘pumping’ effect of blood to the affected area. It may also have an effect on the way our nerves perceive the injury. Usually a cold pack is applied for 1 minute followed by 3 or 4 minutes of warm therapy, and then alternating back and forth again. This technique is used by me and many other athletes following a particularly difficult workout to minimize muscle soreness the following day. The relationship between how much time you spend on each of hot and cold is personal to the athlete and takes some experimentation to find what works best for them.

— Posted on 15th February 2016

  • cryolux group

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