A recent study[i] finds timing is everything when using cryotherapy to limit the increase of secondary tissue damage caused by injury and strenuous exercise.
Cryotherapy is often used within the sports and fitness industry as a physical intervention for the session of injury and as a post-recovery method, the standard practices being ice pack use and whole body cryotherapy. The aim of the study was to find comparable evidence that cryotherapy works for humans in the same way that it does for animal models, which found cryotherapy induced reductions in inflammation and tissue damage. This latest study was conducted by researchers:
Susan Y Kwiecien & Malachy P McHugh – Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York, NY, USA
The team used the novel application of cooling with 15°C phase change material (PCM) to carry out their experiment, this was administered for 3-6 hours following exercise.
The study concluded that cryotherapy limited the amount of secondary tissue damage that occurs after an injury or a session of strenuous exercise and that it is imperative to apply cryotherapy, in abundance, within the first few hours of structural damage. This means timing plays a huge part in the effectiveness of cold therapy sessions for fitness-related injuries. Therefore, cryotherapy is recommended when rapid recovery is required between bouts of exercise.
You can find the full study here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33877402/
[i] The cold truth: the role of cryotherapy in the session of injury and recovery from exercise
Susan Y Kwiecien 1, Malachy P McHugh 2