How To Use Cold Therapy to Heal Swimming Injuries
Swimming is a fun summer pastime as well as an extremely competitive sport. Luckily, swimming has a very low injury rate. The water softens impact and pools are often used for water therapy and rehabilitation. However, if you are a competitive swimmer, there are some potential injury risks. If you do sustain an injury, unlike other sports like basketball or soccer, braces and supports aren't really an option in the pool. However, cold therapy can help you recover.
Common Swimming Injuries
Swimming is a full body sport that requires a combination of endurance and strength. Because swimming is a total body workout, most swimming-related injuries are overuse injuries. Like with most sports, proper training and conditioning can help reduce your risk of injury. If you find yourself with an injury from swimming, it will most likely be your shoulders, lower back or knees, as these are the most common places for swimming injuries.
Even with reduced impact from the water, muscles can still strain or tear while swimming. Most of these injuries occur during high speed swims. In addition to the shoulders, back and knees, muscle strains can also affect hamstrings, quadriceps, calf muscles and biceps.
The term “swimmer's shoulder” refers to shoulder pain in swimmers that usually caused by a combination of overuse and an impingement syndrome or tendonitis. Swimmer's shoulder causes inflammation in the rotator cuff muscles which lie adjacent to the shoulder. Because the act of swimming involves overhead arm movements, shoulders can also suffer micro-traumas as a result of increased stress on the muscles and joints. This can lead to tendonitis in the rotator cuff, biceps or subacromial. Micro-traumas can be caused by a sudden increase in activity, existing shoulder issues or lack of proper technique.
When you swim, your legs help to propel you through the water both by pushing off the wall and by kicking to increase speed. Improper kicking technique can lead to a condition called swimmer's knee. Swimmer's knee refers to knee injury caused by stress on the medial collateral ligament, which runs alongside the knee. This injury is most common in swimmers competing in the breaststroke because the ‘whip-kick' technique used during this style affects the rotation of the medial collateral ligament. Swimmer's knee, like other swimming injuries, can also be caused by overuse.
Cold Therapy Treatment
If you experience any of these injuries while swimming or after, cold therapy treatment can help ease the pain and get you back in the pool. Cold therapy uses the principles of the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). In the case of cold therapy, it's ice and compression.
Using cold compression helps to reduce pain and swelling from injuries. The cold slows down the bloodflow to the injury, reducing inflammation. Cold therapy is good for minor injuries like sprains, muscle strains or muscle soreness. While cold therapy helps ease pain and swelling, more severe injuries should be examined by a doctor.
The best way to apply cold therapy is through an ice or gel pack 24 to 48 hours after the injury occurs. Apply cold packs to your injury for 20 minutes at a time, taking at least 10 minutes in between applications.
If your injury persists or worsens, consult your doctor; you may have a more serious injury that requires physical therapy and/or surgery.
Cold vs. Hot: Which Wins and When?
We've all heard the advice: "put ice on it" or "give it some heat," but you might not be sure when to apply cold or heat. Both hot and cold therapies have advantages for pain relief depending on the type of injury.
For the best one to try, follow these suggestions:
Use cold for acute pain and new injuries that are swollen and inflamed. This includes recent tissue damage and sprains. Ice should be applied after exercise to the area of injury using a towel to protect the skin.
If you have a chronic injury, apply ice and compression after a workout. Use cold gel packs, such as Chattanooga, and wraps like Durasoft .
Need both cold and compression at the same time? Try Aircast CryoCuff cold therapy.
Heat is for chronic pain, muscle spasms, joint pain or an injury more than 24 to 48 hours old. Heat stimulates blood flow and soothes overworked muscles. Heat should only be used before exercising. To apply heat, use a heating pad, a hot wet towel or warm shower. Chattanooga has a range of quality heat products.
Treat It Right:
- Apply ice or heat for no longer than 10-20 minutes at a time.
- A combination of heat and cold can be used after an injury to keep swelling down and increase circulation.
- For muscle tears or strains, start with ice and move on to heat when the inflammation has reduced.
- Listen to your body. Heat or cold should not worsen the pain or injury.
Talk to your doctor if you have further questions about hot or cold therapy.
Types of Cold Therapy
Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is often used to reduce soreness and pain. It works by applying cold (such as ice) to the area of injury. Not only does cold therapy help reduce pain, but it also decreases swelling and promotes healing.
There are many ways you can apply cold to your injury. Here are some of the most common ways:
- Ice - You can simply put ice in a bag and apply it to the area of injury. This is the easiest method because ice is readily available, but you can't control the temperature and the cold doesn't last very long.
- Cold packs - Cold packs are similar to ice, but they are reusable. Simply put the cold pack in the freezer and pull it out when you need to use it. Sports medicine first aid kits often have temporary cold packs which are one-time use.
- Cryo/Cuff - Aircast makes Cryo/Cuff products designed for specific areas of your body to provide long-lasting and temperature-controlled cold therapy pain relief.
Speak with your doctor to see if cold therapy is an appropriate method of treatment for your injury. You can also check out our selection of cold therapy products and find ways to apply cryotherapy to your knee, ankle, foot, back, neck and more!
Three types of ankle braces
Depending on the severity of your ankle injury there are 3 types of ankle braces available to you. In fact, over the course of your rehabilitation you may find it time to move from one of our maximum support braces to a mild or moderate support brace. Don't forget, if you've previously suffered from an ankle sprain wearing an ankle brace is one of the best ways to prevent future ankle injuries.
Maximum Support Ankle Braces…helps immobilize the ankle and provides compression to reduce swelling. Designed to treat the most severe ankle sprains, also known as third degree ankle sprains, and injuries.
Moderate Support Ankle Braces…if you are prone to ankle sprains, these ankle braces are great for you because they provide extra stability during sports and activities. Can also be worn while recovering from a second degree ankle sprain when walking is difficult.
Mild Support Ankle Braces…ideal for mild, first degree ankle sprains because they provide a light amount of support during daily activities like walking.