What is cold therapy in chiropractic care?
An injury, minor or significant, leads to signs and symptoms of inflammation, including pain, discomfort, redness, and swelling, with a slight increase in the temperature of the injured area and its surroundings. Applying ice as a part of cold therapy is an age-old practice that helps in relieving the symptoms of any traumatic injury.
Cold therapy, also called cryotherapy, has been used for centuries. European Journal of Applied Science published a report in 2022 that clearly states the use of snow and ice in the 19th century on soldiers during operations. Recently, whole body cryotherapy (WBC) has been widespread, where the surrounding air in the room is thoroughly chilled. The advantage of WBC over cold water is that the skin’s temperature is immediately lowered with a release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone) that helps relieve the symptoms of pain, discomfort, and swelling.
The RICE method involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation and has been used by professionals since 1978 to treat acute injuries, mainly due to athletic or heavy physical activity. RICES (rest, ice, compression, elevation, and stabilization) and PRICE (Protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation) are also the two methods that different professionals and doctors commonly use to manage the state of pain, redness, and swelling at the site of injury.
According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cold therapy is “super cooling” the body’s surface only for the therapeutic purpose that helps in the management of severe and chronic (long-term of more than 15 days duration) pain conditions, insomnia or no sleep state, signs of symptoms of anxiety and depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and even an immunological condition affecting the bones such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
This blog has tried to explain how chiropractic care can help relieve injury symptoms through cold therapy.
How does cold therapy help in relieving the symptoms of the injury?
Cold therapy is a process, or way chiropractic professionals help you get rid of pain without invasive management or drug therapy. It involves using cold fomentation in the form of ice packs or cold massage therapy using lasers. This way of applying cold compresses to the affected area restricts the blood flow, causing the area to get numb and, thus, a sense of pain relief. Also, the visible swelling gets to disappear slowly. After the ice or cold compress is released from the site, the blood vessels get expanded and get pooled with an increased blood supply, bringing in plenty of new blood cells and thus accelerating the healing process and lowering the symptoms of inflammation.
The bruised and swollen area can be managed effectively using cold therapy by restricting the blood supply to that area. The ice packs or gels are applied to the affected area for not more than 20 minutes at one time. Reapplication can be done after removing these ice packs for at least 10 minutes. This ensures to give healing time for the affected area.
Though most of the recommendations and referrals for cold therapy involve practical experiences and analysis with minimal evidence to support the concept, its efficacy over other modalities has always been useful. The pain and discomfort in the musculoskeletal complex have reduced to a much greater extent after the cold fomentation of the affected site.
Many forms of cryotherapy include
Whole-body cryotherapy (WBC)
The patient has to sit or stand in a closed chamber filled with liquid nitrogen and achieve subzero temperatures. The exposure time is as low as 2-4 minutes per session, after which the patient is exposed to some warm environment. The process lowers the temperature of the whole body quite rapidly and helps manage the symptoms of pain secondary to any injury.
Partial body cryotherapy (PBC)
The aim and method of PBC are very similar to that of WBC, except that in WBC, the patient’s head is out of the chamber as he is now asked to sit or stand in a person-sized chamber with only the torso and legs inside the chamber.
The patient has to submerge themself in the chilled water with the exclusion of the head and the neck. It is a form of therapeutic condition used to treat soreness of the musculoskeletal complex after heavy exercises.
The ice packs or gels are placed over the affected site, and help reduce muscular soreness, pain, and swelling in that area.
Cold therapy manages chronic or long-term pain conditions and soreness in the musculoskeletal complex by reducing the signs and symptoms of pain and inflammation. Chiropractors have always helped their patients get relief from musculoskeletal conditions through non-invasive and drug-free therapies.