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Peripheral Blood Flow & Temperature Modulations after Common Cryotherapy Treatments. John Rich, ATC. Ankle Anatomy. Talocrural Joint Lateral Collateral Ligaments Anterior talofibular ligament (ATF) Posterior talofibular ligament (PTF) Calcaneofibular ligament (CF)

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ankle anatomy
Ankle Anatomy
  • Talocrural Joint
    • Lateral Collateral Ligaments
      • Anterior talofibular ligament (ATF)
      • Posterior talofibular ligament (PTF)
      • Calcaneofibular ligament (CF)
    • Deltoid ligament (Medial)
      • Dorsiflexion
      • Plantarflexion
ankle anatomy1
Ankle Anatomy
  • Subtalar Joint
    • Articulation between the talus and calcaneous
      • Inversion
      • Eversion
  • Most ankle injuries are ankle sprains
    • Inversion Sprains
    • Eversion Sprains
    • Syndesmotic Sprains
  • 23,000 ankle sprains/day3
    • 1 sprain/10,000 people
  • Severity often underestimated4
    • current treatments may not prevent reoccurring injuries
  • One of the most commonly used treatments
    • Ice Bags
    • Instant and Gel Ice Packs
    • Ice Immersion
    • Cold Whirlpool
    • Theragesic Agents
    • Ice Massage
  • Reduces inflammation, pain, and muscle spasm2
  • Cooling effects of both superficial and intramuscular tissues

Physiologic Changes2


Decreased metabolism

Decreased Spasm and edema formation

Decreased Pain sensation

Lasting effects of cold play a role in the healing process

Limiting inflammation

An optimal environment for healing


An essential component to the initial treatment of acute injuries

Limited research to examine the role of elevation in vascular and temperature changes during cryotherapy

cryotherapy techniques
Cryotherapy Techniques
  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) technique
  • The ‘Wrap and Go’ ice bag technique
infrared thermography
Infrared Thermography
  • Infrared thermography (DIRT)
    • Non-invasive method of collecting real time temperatures of tissues up to 2 inches in depth5
    • Averages temperatures of a specific area
      • Spot specific measurements with a thermocouple
infrared thermography1
Infrared Thermography

A valid and reliable tool for measuring tissue temperature

Tracks dynamic changes in tissue temperature

Ideal tool for monitoring recovery of tissue temperature

The physiological changes following cryotherapy can be measured and can remain consistent

  • A similar study comparing cryotherapy while treadmill walking and while lying prone
  • Not much research comparing ice and elevation
  • Surface temperature changes will occur but will position or activity effect vascular changes at the joint

Compare the physiological effects of ice with elevation, and ice with a sub-maximal movement (walking), and how elevation alone will effect the healing process.

To determine the cooling effects of skin temperature and the peripheral blood flow at the lateral ankle joint.


The “wrap and go” technique will provide the therapeutic effects necessary for healing.

The RICE method will produce more beneficial therapeutic effects that will last longer after the ice is removed, allowing for more decreased inflammation and healing time.

study design
Study Design
  • A 2x3x3 repeated measures factorial experimental design.
  • Independent variables:
    • Treatment
      • Ice
      • No Ice
    • Position
      • No-elevation
      • Elevation
      • Treadmill Walking
    • Time
      • Pre-Test
      • Initial Post-Test
      • 15-Min Post-Test
  • Dependent variable
    • Skin Temperature


  • 12 participants (6 males  = 23.5 years, 6 females  = 21.5 years)
  • Criteria
    • No injury
    • Medical PAR-Q
    • Cold hypersensitivity or known cold allergies
    • IRB approved
  • Thermal Image Processor (TIP)
    • Infrared camera used to capture and analyze images, utilizing advanced image analysis software, TIPMED
  • Xpress compact scale
    • To accurately measure each ice bag (1kg)

Heavy duty ice bags (9 ½” x 18”)

Cramer Flexi-Wrap (4”)

Hand crafted devices for no-elevation and elevation treatments


Total of 18 images

Over 5 days, within a 2 week time period

Each session lasted about 45 minutes to 1 hour

  • Equilibration for 15 minutes
  • Pre-Image taken
  • 15 minute Treatment
  • Initial Post-Image taken
  • Sit for 15 minutes
  • 15-minute Post-Image taken
protocol cont
Protocol – cont.

Day One

Day Two

No-Elevation No Ice

Elevation No Ice

Treadmill No Ice

Day Four

Day Three

Day Five

No-Elevation Ice

Elevation Ice

Treadmill Ice


15 Minutes after the treatment

Before Treatment


15 Mins. Post

Immediately following the treatment

Initial Post

statistical analysis
Statistical Analysis
  • All data was inserted into a custom Excel spread sheet (Version 2007)
  • Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)
    • Follow up t-tests
    • Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS version 16)
  • The alpha level was set a priori at p = 0.05
  • A significant interaction between treatment and time [F(2,10) = 0.923, p < 0.0001] and position and time [F(2,10) = 0.923, p < 0.003]
    • No interaction between treatment and position [F(2,10) = 0.923, p = 0.429]
    • Position did have a within-subjects effect with ice treatment (p = 0.026)

TABLE 1. Temperature by condition (oC); pre-test, initial post-test, & 15 minutes post-test (Mean ±SD)


TABLE 2. Temperature by condition; with and without Ice Treatment; Pre-test & 15 minutes post-test

(Mean ±SD, 95% confidence intervals (CI) and effect size (ES)

results discussion
  • Immediately following 15 minutes of ice bag application, the treadmill walking condition showed cooler superficial temperatures than the no-elevation condition (p = 0.056)
  • Means indicate a difference in non-contact surface temperatures of about 2oC
  • Ice Massage and Ice Bag
    • Ice Massage cools quicker then Ice Bag
    • Greater pressure applied
    • Continuous movement and friction
  • Circulation plays an important role in determining tissue temperature of the treatment area.
  • The Hunting Response
    • First produces vasoconstriction, helping reduce the flow of cold blood to the core
    • A reflex vasodilation occurs producing an increase in circulation bringing warm blood to the area
    • A pulsed circulation effect
  • If cold is continuously applied for fifteen to thirty minutes, an intermittent period of vasodilation occurs every four to six minutes. 10
results discussion1
  • The treadmill walking seems to produce a quicker return to baseline (warm-up) than the elevated position (p = 0.02)
    • No-elevation to Elevation (p = 0.34)
    • Treadmill walking to No-elevation (p = 0.26)
  • The application of cryotherapy produces physiologic changes in the tissue.7
  • Thus, when exercising during the treatment the cooling effect of the cryotherapy on the muscle is negated by the heat produced by the muscle activity.2
  • This study only looked at the effects in the lower extremity
  • Research needs to be conducted to investigate the differences between joints and muscles
  • Limitations
    • Intra-joint temperatures
    • Temperature and humidity
  • The ‘wrap and go’ technique of cryotherapy may be beneficial in decreasing surface temperature but tends to re-warm quicker, suggesting the traditional RICE method is more appropriate for effective cryotherapy treatments.
  • A special thank you to:
    • Dr. Pascoe
    • Dr. Sefton
    • Ceren
    • The Fellows
    • The Kenny Howard Fellowship

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