Different Options Available for Icing
Reading through this article, you are probably aware by now that there are a number of important things to consider before using cryotherapy. You can add body characteristics and icing methods to the list of factors that influence how well cold application can penetrate through your skin. Icing can penetrate more deeply if your body has low subcutaneous fat content in the way. Cold will also penetrate deeper if your skin integrity is compromised (e.g. an open cut) and if local circulation is poor.
The three general methods for icing, ordered from superficial to deep cold penetration are cold gel packs, ice-filled bags, and ice bath. Each method has its own pros and cons I want you to take advantage of when you need to use cold application. Gel packs are the cheapest, easiest, and most convenient to use. Most people have at least one pack at home, and they can be reused by simply throwing them back in the freezer. Ice bags can reach a better depth of penetration into your soft tissue. Using grinded ice to fill the bag is ideal, but ice cubes can work too. They also offer the advantage of molding around a limb better than a gel pack which improves the surface area of contact. The cold from an ice bath penetrates the body deepest because water is a better conductor of heat than air. These are most useful when cooling the extremities since the water can completely envelope every gap and curve of your fingers and toes. However, unlike gel packs and ice bags, you cannot elevate the limb while using an ice bath in most cases. You must also be aware that an ice bath with moving water will create a cooler effect on your skin than still water. Convection (heat transfer by movement of water/air) does not give your skin a chance to reach a homeostasis with the water immediately surrounding it. Water that is warmed by the surface of your skin constantly gets pushed away by colder water, leading to a greater cooling effect.
What to Take from This Guide
Cryotherapy is an effective treatment option to reduce swelling and pain, and improve function after injury. By understanding its effects on the human body, you are better equipped to reason when to use icing. Keep in mind the methods available, duration, cold penetration, contraindications, precautions, and risks involved. Cryotherapy provides the most value when all of these factors are considered.