Cryotherapy effect

The usefulness of low temperatures – achieved by applying snow, ice or ice water to the bruised area – in medicine was already known in ancient Egypt and was documented in Hippocrates’ writings. Modern cryotherapy is based on principles identified in 1978 by Japanese doctor T. Yamauchi, who was responsible for the first cold chamber for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The idea, which was taken up in Germany for the treatment of other chronic inflammatory diseases, has led modern medicine to the use of cryotherapy in the treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal, dermatological, gastroenteric, and nervous pathologies.

Localised cryotherapy i.e., the application of low temperatures to specific body areas has several effects:

  • Analgesic effect: achieved by slowing down the nerve conduction of nociceptive fibres, which in turn inhibits the transmission of algic neurotransmitters in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord
  • Myorelaxant effect: the decrease in input from sensory nerve fibres leads to muscle relaxation and resolution of the cramp, increasing the analgesic effect in the treated area
  • Haemodynamic effect: thanks to the vasoconstriction induced by the drop in temperature
  • Metabolic effect: achieved by reducing the extent of ischaemic damage due to hypoxia

Cryotherapy is widely used in sports medicine. The effects of cryotherapy derive from the intensity of the cold and the duration, frequency, and method of application. For racehorses, the application of cold is well-known in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries.

  • Acute injuries: induced vasoconstriction reduces the recall and extravasation of inflammatory mediators, thus decreasing phlogosis
  • Chronic injuries: the alternation of hot/cold applications accelerates the reparative processes and tissue healing

As an adjuvant during the first steps of rehabilitation, the application of localised cold immediately after exercise effectively limits pain and soreness in the part.

Cryotherapy has also proved to be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of laminitis, especially endocrine and endotoxic laminitis. Cryotherapy sessions should last no more than 20 minutes – after which vasodilatory phenomena begin to be observed – to achieve a temperature of the affected area of between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. The methods used to achieve this effect range from ineffective ice showers to the immersion of the part in ice water, the application of ice packs or ice shin guards, or the purchase of specialised equipment.

Whole- and partial-body cryostimulation/cryotherapy: current technologies and practical applications

R. Bouzigon, F. Grappe, G. Ravier, B. Dugue

J Therm Biol, 61 (2016), pp. 67-81

Motor and sensory nerve conduction are affected differently by ice pack, ice massage, and cold-water immersion

R. Bouzigon, F. Grappe, G. Ravier, B. Dugue

J Therm Biol, 61 (2016), pp. 67-81

Hematological profile and martial status in Rugby players during whole body Cryostimulation

G. Lombardi, P. Lanteri, S. Porcelli, C. Mauri, A. Colombini, D. Grasso, et al.

PLoS One, 8 (2013), p. e55803

Whole-body cryotherapy as a recovery technique after exercise: a review of the literature

C. Rose, K.M. Edwards, J. Siegler, K. Graham, C. Caillaud

Int J Sports Med, 38 (2017), pp. 1049-1060

Response of twenty-seven horses with lower leg injuries to cold spa bath hydrotherapy

E.R. Hunt

J Equine Vet Sci, 21 (2001), pp. 188-193

Influence of topically applied cold treatment on core temperature and cell viability in equine

R. Petrov, M. MacDonald, A. Tesch, L. Van Hoogmoed

Am J Vet Res, 64 (2003), pp. 835-844

Cold therapy in the equine superficial digital flexor tendons

D.W. Ramey

Equine Pract, 21 (1999), pp. 19-22

Prolonged, continuous distal limb cryotherapy in the horse

C.C. Pollitt, A.W. Van Eps

J Equine Vet Sci, 36 (2004), pp. 216-220

Whole body and partial body cryotherapies – lessons from human practice and possible application for horses

K. Roszkowska, O. Witkowska-Pilaszewicz, M. Przewozny, A. Cywinska

BMC Vet Res, 14 (2018), p. 394

A comparison of seven methods for continuous therapeutic cooling of the equine digit

A.W. van Eps, J.A. Orsini

Equine Vet J, 48 (2016), pp. 120-124

Equine laminitis model: cryotherapy reduces the severity of lesions evaluated seven days after induction with oligofructose

A.W. van Eps, C.C. Pollitt

Equine Vet J, 41 (2009), pp. 741-746

Prophylactic digital cryotherapy is associated with decreased incidence of laminitis in horses diagnosed with colitis

A. Kullmann, S.J. Holcombe, S.D. Hurcombe, H.A. Roessner, J.G. Hauptman, R.J. Geor, et al.

Equine Vet J, 46 (2014), pp. 554-559

Therapy for leg swelling in: veterinary manual for the performance horse

N.S. Loving, A.N. Johnston

Blackwell Science, London (1995), pp. 238-242

Our Curaboots®

They are boots for horses, specifically designed for the recovery of muscles, tendons and the treatment of traumas or micro-traumas of the skeletal system. Curaboots® use cryotherapy and the hydro-massage effect

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