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Thermo Vs. Cryo Essay

1214 words - 5 pages

The debate between the applications of thermotherapy (hot) versus cryotherapy (cold) in the treatment of patients in the acute inflammatory phase following injury continues to wage on in the realm of professional healthcare and rehabilitation. For many athletic trainers, whether to use heat or cold therapy is often a personal choice, although cold therapy seems to be more effective for acute pain (Itoh & Lee, 2007). However, for many patients/clients concerned with the effectiveness of a specific treatment coupled with the rate of recovery, hard evidence derived from reliable and consistent research in support of one modality as the most effective, is in high demand.
While both hot ...view middle of the document...

The four cardinal signs of an acute inflammatory response are: pain, heat, redness, and swelling. While inflammation is a normal biological response to injury and is vital to the healing process, too much inflammation hinders the healing process and inhibits the flow of nutrients, proteins, and clotting factors in the blood from reaching the area of injury (King, 2007). Therefore, it is important to reduce swelling in order to maintain range of motion in the area, relieve pain, and induce a faster rate of healing. The big question remains: is the use of cryotherapy of thermotherapy more beneficial when reducing inflammation?
Cryotherapy is defined as the use of cold temperature as a form of treatment for an injury. Cold may be applied using an ice bag, cold pack, or fluids (such as ethyl chloride) that cool by evaporation (Itoh & Lee, 2007). Physiologically, applying an ice bag an area of inflammation lowers tissue temperature by the withdrawal of heat energy from the body to achieve a therapeutic effect (Kennet, Hardaker, Hobbs & Selfe, 2007). This phenomenon is explained by the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that all temperature changes result from transfer of thermal energy from high to low across a temperature gradient (Dykstra, Hill, Miller, Cheatham, Michael & Baker, 2009). In other words, heat travels from hot to cold; in this case, from the heat associated as a byproduct of inflammation of the tissue, to the lower temperature of the ice bag. The effects of treatment using cold reach far beyond the superficial surface of the skin, having numerous biological effects on the intricate inner physiological workings of the human body. With regard to the circulatory system, cold causes constriction of small arteries and veins by direct stimulation of the smooth muscle lining these vessels. The benefits of vasoconstriction include decreased hemorrhage and swelling within injured tissues (Wnorowski, 2011). The tangible, physical effects of application of cold may help numb tissues and relieve muscle spasms, acute low back pain, and acute inflammation (Itoh & Lee, 2007).
Thermotherapy can have a completely different effect on body tissue. Thermotherapy is defined as the application of heat to treat a disease or disorder by use of heating pads, hot compresses or hot water bottles. Other types of heat therapy might be diathermy or high frequency sounds waves known as ultrasound. According to Itoh and Lee, the application of heat can help increase blood flow due to the relaxation of the smooth muscle in the blood vessels, also known as vasodilation, which causes more blood flow to the injured region. Therefore, the function of heat would be best used after the acute stages of injury and inflammation since heat can increase swelling to the injured area (Wnorowski, 2007).
To prove the highly debated question of whether heat or...

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