Sprains are a common injury in the world of sports. Land wrong while playing football and your wrist could be sprained. Come down on somebody’s foot after a shot in basketball and your ankle could be sprained. With such a common injury, what is actually happening? Can cryo-compression help during recovery?
According to LiveScience, sprains happen when ligaments in the body become stretched or torn. This is why joints are what get sprained, such as ankles, wrists, knees, and so on. Typically our ligaments expand on movement, and then snap back to place when the movement is done. However, something that pushes, twists, or strikes a ligament either more strongly, or in an unusual way, can impact this body system, causing a sprain to occur.
There are three different levels of sprains. The first grade, is just slight stretching and minor damage to the ligaments. The suggested recovery method by LiveScience is rest, and the use of the RICE protocol, (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.) Sprains often come with lots of swelling thatoccurs in the injured area. As such, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases suggests icing for twenty minutes four to eight times a day. The institute also suggests utilizing compression as well.
The second grade of sprains is a partial tearing of the ligament. The third grade is a complete tear in the ligament, which is the worst potential sprain. While the minor sprain does not require much recovery, one of the more serious sprains could require a brace, or in the event of a tear, surgery. The more severe the sprain, the longer the recovery may be. Either way, the use of cryo-therapy and compression should help reduce the swelling that comes with a sprain.
RICE implements both cryo-therapy and compression for their own specific reasons. A study by Hocutt JE Jr. and his team posted on NCBI’s website stated that the use of cryotherapy continued with compression early on in the injury is an effective treatment for ankle sprains, and it provides an earlier recovery than late cryotherapy or heat therapy. So ice and compression are helpful for a faster recovery, but what do those components do to help you recover?
The effect cryotherapy has, is that is numbs pain, and then reduces swelling by constricting the blood vessels. Swelling is the body’s natural way of attempting to heal an injury, but with modern medicine, it can actually cause a slower recovery and a decrease in movement for the duration of the injury. By reducing swelling, cryotherapy usually is able to help a patient recover a bit faster. However, there are some parts of cold therapy that you should be aware of while utilizing its benefits. For starters, never ice for longer than twenty minutes, as this can cause frostbite, resulting in more damage instead of helping. There is also the possibility of a slight decrease in functionality for a brief period directly after icing. As such, icing and then hopping directly back into the game without letting your body warm up first is probably not a great idea. It is also not suggested to ice while playing.
Compression helps to reduce swelling in a slightly different way than cold therapy. While cryotherapy reduces the amount of fluid rushing to injury that would cause swelling, compression helps remove what fluid is there by helping the blood vessels that take fluid out of the area. Essentially, Ice keeps the fluid that causes swelling out, and compression helps remove the fluid that made it through.
As such, cryotherapy and compression work together well to help sprains recover more quickly. Thus, utilizing cryo-compression can speed up the RICE process by combining two elements together. However, icing the injury for twenty minutes, four to eight times a day can eat up quite a bit of time. At the average of six times a day, that’s around 120 minutes of time spent icing, not to mention the time spent preparing your icing technique. So instead of wasting all that time being stuck dealing with leaky ice bags, and holding an ice pack to your leg or arm, try our on the go, and easy to use cryo-compression products!