Medical professionals owe a duty of care to patients and consequently require independent clinical evidence to justify deviation from accepted norms. Throughout the 20th Century, the pharmaceutical industry made many breakthroughs with the result that many patients developed a dependence on pain killers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to the point where superbugs began to build immunity.
In addition, the side effects of long term use of pain killers have not been recognised by the general public until relatively recently.
Historically, cold water immersion, especially cold salt water, was seen as an effective way to combat pain, inflammation and infection, but it lost it’s advocates with the rise in modern pharmaceutical discoveries.
Cold water therapy research & case reports
Today there is a growing body of evidence to support the traditional use of cold salt water for a range of conditions.
In 2004 Clare J Proudfoot and others from the University of Edinburgh proved that applying cold to the skin triggered transient receptor potential channels (TRP’s) that blocked pain signals being sent to the brain. The interesting aspect was that pain was blocked generally even though the cold was only applied to one limb.
And in February 2018 dr Tom Mole from Cambridge University published a Case Report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reporting the complete resolution of post-surgical pain following low-temperature open water sea swimming after several months of conventional treatment proving to be totally ineffective.
Even more recently another case report published in the BMJ in July 2018 by Christoffer van Tulleken from University College London showed how cold water swimming was effective in alleviating chronic post-natal depression after seven years of conventional treatment failing to resolve the issue. Link…
What injuries* could benefit from cold therapy?
With the medical community conducting more research into the benefits of cold water therapy and the effects it has on patients and their recovery it is becoming increasingly apparent there are several areas of which cold water therapy could be more beneficial than conventional pharmaceutical interventions.
- Recovery from surgery on the knee, ankle and elbow
- Control of inflammation in tendon and ligament injuries
- Pain management for acute and chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, sciatica, brittle bone disease, non-specific pain etc.
An additional point of interest is the lack of side effects and the inexpensive nature of cold water therapy.
How cold water therapy helps with recovery in patients
Medical professionals are finding that cold water therapy after ACL or MCL surgery has several therapeutic benefits such as pain reduction because nerve activity is slowed down, as blood vessels compress reducing blood flow to the area, reducing swelling to the injury which leads to faster healing as cellular activity slows down.
Cold water therapy will decrease the temperature of the tissue which stimulates the cutaneous receptors, reduces swelling and inflammation, limiting the degree of injury for your patient, without the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, which can slow down the bodies natural healing process.