Does Cryotherapy Help With Sports Recovery?

It seems that cryotherapy is everywhere these days. And that’s for a good reason since this therapy helps a lot with sports recovery.

After the high-performance training trend and the “wellness” fad, we are now seeing more and more people embracing subzero cryotherapy treatments for recovery from strenuous sports activities.

But just how effective is this type of recovery treatment for athletes? Do ice baths or cold water swimming help you recover faster after a game?

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about cryo and its impact on sports performance.

What Is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy uses low-temperature cooling to produce a therapeutic effect on the body.

There are many types of cryotherapy, including:

  • Cryosauna – A sauna-like treatment in which you sit in a chamber that can be as cold as -100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cryostimulation – A cold-induced pain that can be applied with a spray or gel pack.
  • Cryoneurolysis – A low-temperature cold therapy applied to a specific area or joint.
  • Ice Baths – Soaking your body in a bath of ice water.
  • Cold-Water Swimming – Swimming in water in which the temperature is below room temperature.
  • Paraffin Wax Bath – Immersing yourself in a bath of warm paraffin wax.

Benefits Of Cryotherapy For Athletes

Athletes can gain many potential benefits from a cryotherapy recovery treatment after a game.

Cryotherapy is known to help increase blood flow to the soft tissues and help reduce tissue inflammation and pain after a strenuous workout.

It is also believed that it can improve the overall healing process and help stabilize the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells in the body.

There is also evidence that cryotherapy can help with recovery time and help maintain fitness levels between workouts.

Studies have shown that cold therapy has the potential to improve blood flow and reduce muscle metabolites by 10-40%. This means that it might effectively reduce muscle soreness and fatigue caused by high-intensity workouts.

How Does It Help In Sports Recovery?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cold therapy might effectively support the recovery process after a game. This is mainly due to its ability to reduce inflammation caused by strenuous exercise and aid in repairing soft tissue damage.

During a game, your body is under physical stress, which can cause inflammation and pain in the soft tissues of your muscles, joints, and connective tissues.

Cold therapy is believed to help reduce this inflammation and pain by constricting blood vessels and decreasing blood flow to the affected areas.

This also helps reduce the amount of fluid that leaks out of the injured soft tissue and back into the blood supply. This allows the injured tissue to recover more quickly while also reducing pain.

Short-Term Side Effects

The short-term side effects of cryotherapy are well documented. The most common short-term side effects of cryotherapy are:

1. Discomfort

This therapy is likely to be very uncomfortable, mainly if you are used to warming baths or spa treatments.

2. Lack Of Blood Flow

The constriction of blood vessels caused by cryotherapy might cause a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the tissues, which can lead to severe injuries if you are not careful.

3. Immune Issues

Short-term use of cold therapy is unlikely to impact your immune system negatively, but regular use might lead to an increased risk of infections.

4. Skin Issues

Regular use of cryo might lead to skin issues such as dermatitis and erythema.

Long-Term Side Effects

Cryotherapy has been used in sports and medicine for many years, but it is still not completely clear whether or not it leads to any long-term side effects.

Some studies suggest that long-term use of cold therapy might be harmful because it can reduce blood flow, which is essential for tissue repair and immune response.

This can lead to tissue damage and even permanent nerve damage in some individuals.

A recent study found that long-term cryotherapy can negatively affect the protein synthesis and recovery of muscle fibers. This might be especially harmful to athletes who need to gain strength by increasing protein synthesis.

Is Cold Therapy Good For Sports Recovery?

There is evidence that cryotherapy might be effective for relieving pain and speeding up the healing process. But there is not enough evidence to suggest that it leads to better athletic performance.

To be honest, there is not enough evidence to suggest that cold therapy has any positive effects on sports performance.

Cryotherapy might be a helpful treatment after an injury, but it will not help you prevent injuries or recover faster after your next game.

It is unlikely to improve your strength, endurance, or power performance.

If you want to improve your performance, you need to train hard, eat right, and sleep enough to allow your body to recover. You do not need cryotherapy to recover faster or be healthier.

You just need to rest your body and give it the nutrients and vitamins it needs to heal properly.

The Takeaway

Ice baths and cryotherapy have been used for many years to help athletes recover faster after strenuous workouts.

There is evidence that these treatments might be effective in reducing pain and inflammation. But there is not enough evidence to suggest that they lead to better athletic performance or faster recovery times.

If you are an athlete, you should first ensure that you are getting adequate rest and eating right to maximize your recovery.

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