Cold Therapy

by Jan 11, 2021

Do you have a deep-seated hatred for the summer heat?  If so, then this is the article for you!

But even if you’re the type who enjoys excessive perspiration and general heat-related discomfort, ice therapy will still do wonders for your body!  So maybe step out of your comfort (discomfort?) zone for a bit, and read on about why frozen vegetable bags should serve multiple purposes!

What is Cold Therapy?

It sounds self-explanatory, but I feel it’s necessary to clear one thing up: this is not an article about cryotherapy, even though the word literally translates to cold therapy.  Cryotherapy involves exposing the body to subfreezing temperatures — sometimes as low as -284 degrees Fahrenheit — for a short period of time.  It’s a controversial procedure, and I personally discourage it.  (But you do you, and I’ll do me.  No shaming here if it’s something you benefit from!)

Now onto the straightforwardness of this type of cold therapy!

Cold therapy (or ice therapy) involves the application of cold material to an area of the body that can benefit from it.  That’s about as straightforward as straightforward gets.

What Else is Ice Therapy Good For?

Muscle Tightness

For sore muscles, I generally recommend hot-cold therapy.  Start with 15 minutes of heat application to relax the muscle, then switch to ice for another 15 minutes to reduce inflammation.

But if your body is already uncomfortably warm this summer, just skip right on over to the ice!

General Aches

In the most general sense, does anything on your body hurt?  Ice doesn’t just treat muscles, it can also be used to treat just about anything.

  • Bruises – If your bruise is fresh, apply ice as soon as you can.  This will prevent the bruise from growing larger.  The vasoconstriction (tightening of vessels) will allow blood to flow to the area more slowly.  This will lessen the amount of blood that leaks from the vessels.
  • Swelling – Whether it’s due to a recent injury or a medical condition, swelling is a pain.  Cold therapy is one of the most effective ways to reduce swelling.
  • Headaches – So you’ve taken the ibuprofen and your head still hurts.  With its numbing effects, try applying an ice pack to your head to dull the pain.
  • Inflammation – Be it of the skin, the joints, or the muscles… ice reduces any form of inflammation!  Leave the pack on for 15 minutes at a time, and feel what happens.

Sunburn

I’ve written quite a bit about the sun in recent articles.  We have to love our sun, but it can sure be hateable too!  For all you unfortunate burners out there, get some ice on that burn fast.  It’ll speed up the healing process and ease the pain

Energy Boost

I think we’ve all experienced a shower suddenly going cold.  It’s not the most comfortable sensation, but it does wake you right up!  Warm showers are relaxing, but think of everything that needs to be done today!  Get in, get out, and get moving

Here’s a personal tip from me!  When I work out at home, I like to have the shower closeby.  When I start to overheat, I just poke my neck behind the curtains and let cold water fall on my head.  It doesn’t just cool me down, it boosts my energy while I take a break!  Gets me pumped for the next exercise!

Weight Loss

Ok, so you won’t necessarily lose noticeable weight with cold showers alone.  But when you expose yourself to cold temperatures, your body has to use energy to reheat itself.  As soon as your temperature drops, a phase called “nonshivering thermogenesis” takes place, which burns calories.  When you do start to shiver, you expend more energy to generate heat, therefore burning more calories.

Best Ways to Apply the Cold!

Reusable Cold Packs

  • The one-time-use ones offer the same benefits, but they are wasteful and need constant replacement — Captain Obvious speaks again!  Buy a gel one, or one of the ones you fill with water and place in the freezer.  They won’t just save you grocery runs, they’ll function as a heat pack when winter comes!
  • You can also use frozen veggie bags!  Just be considerate if you share your home with other people.  Let them know that you pressed the stuff against your skin before they decide to eat it!

Freeze Your Clothes Overnight

  • This is a favorite of mine!  In addition to giving you a freezy rush when you slip them on, placing your clothes in the freezer has another cool benefit!  When you leave you freeze your clothes for at least 12 hours, low temperature kills odor causing bacteria.  This is especially helpful when that nasty heat gets your shirts all sweaty!

Cold Showers or Ice Baths

  • It doesn’t have to be the entire shower, as those can be unpleasant no matter which season we’re in!  But starting out cold will give you that energy boost I talked about earlier!  Very useful if you’re about to leave for work!
  • I have yet to do this, but I know athletes who swear by ice baths.  Should you choose to do this one, be mindful of the time!  Unless you’re supervised by a professional or have experience with ice baths, don’t submerge yourself longer than 10 minutes.  6 to 8 minutes should suffice.

Things to Consider

While cold therapy is generally safe for everyone, there are some risks to look out for.  As I just stated, be mindful of the time.  Prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures can cause frostbite.  And if you have low blood pressure, consider talking to your doctor about the ideal amount of cold for you.

Stay happy and healthy!

Katrina Jenkins

Katrina Jenkins

Author, Licensed Massage Therapist

Katrina Jenkins graduated from Towson University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and worked as a nurse’s aide briefly before pursuing her true passion. She graduated from the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado in April 2016 with honors and completed the Touch of Healers Scholarship Program the following summer. She has been a part of the Moyer Total Wellness Team since the summer of 2017.

Resources:

Lindberg , Sara. “Ice Bath Benefits: What the Research Says.” Healthline, 9 Apr. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/ice-bath-benefits.

Pathak, Neha. “Treatment Tips To Get A Bruise To Heal.” WebMD, WebMD, 1 Sept. 2020, www.webmd.com/first-aid/helping-bruise-heal.

Tremblay , Sylvie. “Can You Lose Weight With Cold Showers?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, www.livestrong.com/article/154168-how-to-lose-weight-with-cold-showers/.

Photo Credit:

Canva by microgen from Getty Images Pro

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