Healing Soft Tissue Injuries with Cold Therapy

For centuries, Ice packs have been an integral part of treatment for soft tissue injuries. But as technology continues to advance, the use of ice packs is slowly fading away, paving the way for other contemporary cold therapy methods like thermotherapy.

But regardless of the method you prefer, cold therapy has proved to be an effective way to alter tissue temperature in the injured body part over time. This treatment method helps to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in the injured soft tissues. This article will learn more about treating soft tissue injuries with cold therapy and the rationale for this type of treatment.

How Does Cold Therapy Work?

Cold therapy helps to suppress the metabolic rate of the injured soft tissues, thus reducing enzymatic activities around the injury. This prevents further tissue damage. When you are injured, an inflammatory response occurs immediately at the injured site. This is the body’s reaction to the injury and the mechanism through which the injured tissue heals. Common signs of tissue inflammation include pain, swelling, warmth, redness, and decreased function.

At the cellular level, an injury disrupts the cell wall, interrupting the normal metabolic process of the cell. This forces the damaged cells to use anaerobic metabolism as their source of energy. But this form of energy production is not sustainable, and the cells won’t get enough energy to continue regulating concentration gradients. Therefore, bodily fluids get into the cells, causing them to swell. Consequently, your body tries to control the injury by releasing several chemicals, including serotonin, histamine, cyclooxygenase, and many others, into the affected area.

Cold therapy reduces tissue temperature and slows the chemical reactions in the affected area, thus reducing the demand for energy by the injured cells. This means that more cells will survive to continue regulating concentration gradients. Also, when an injury occurs, some nerve fibers are activated, causing increased conduction of signal input to your spinal cord. This increases the perception of pain and muscle spasms. But when you apply cold to the injured area, the ferocity of these nerve fibers is decreased, and muscle spasm is reduced.

It has also been discovered that cold temperature application decreases blood flow to the injury, reducing the formation of edema (swelling). When all these effects are combined, they reduce your tissue’s inflammatory response. This results in a rapid healing process. However, it is important to seek advice from a qualified doctor on applying cold therapy to treat soft tissue injuries.