Saturday, December 28, 2013

Contrast Therapy


While I am not a doctor or physical therapist, as a coach of distance runners for some years now I have learned a few treatments for various minor injuries, aches and pains that I have found to be very effective and often speeds along the healing process. 

I wanted to share one with you today that seems to be very effective for treating minor running related soft tissue injuries, aches and pains and is easy to use on the lower leg (feet, ankles, calves). 

Execution:  the runner submerges the affected area in ice water for a period of time, then switches to warm/hot water for a period of time, and then back to cold/ice water again for a period of time.  A second round of warm and then cold can be done if time permits.  I recommend this treatment always begin and end with cold.  For the lower leg, I have found using an old cooler as an easy container to use for the water and is one that the lower leg can easily fit in. A bathtub or whirlpools are other good locations to do this treatment

Time:  while there is some leeway in terms of length of time used for submersion, for the lower leg I have found that 10-15 minutes in each (cold water or hot water) at a time seems to work well.    This gives ample time to effectively reduce or increase the tissue temperature. 

Temperatures:  I use reason as the rule of thumb here, we want the cold water pretty cold and the warm water pretty warm but never to the point of risking causing any skin or tissue damage.  Generally I use cold water with a moderate amount of floating ice in it, and them warm water that feels very warm but that I can tolerate keeping my hand (or foot) in for a prolonged period of time.  Extreme hot or cold isn't necessary.

Theory:  The theory behind why this is an effective treatment is that the contrast causes a vasodilation and vasoconstriction of the area which promotes a pumping or flushing of blood and other fluids through the area.  This process bring more new healing nutrient to the affected area and helps positively influence the inflammation process by moving along and changing out stagnant fluids that have built up. 

Frequency:  this therapy can be done 1-3 times a day if desired and found helpful. 


Note:  while this can be an effective treatment for some injuries, as with all injuries we should seek to find and correct the causes of the injury and take steps to keep it from happening again. 

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