MANILA – While athletes and medics typically use ice to help relieve injuries, one study indicates that they can also use it to increase muscle flexibility, if applied during pre-exercise stretching.
Both heat and cold can help muscles become more flexible, but according to the study “Stretching with ice vs stretching with heat on hamstring flexibility,” which appeared in the UERM (University of the East Ramon Magsaysay) Health Sciences Journal, ice can help more than a hot compress in the long term.
Cryotherapy can have more benefits than thermotherapy prior to static stretching, the study concluded, giving physical therapists and other professionals such as trainers a new option when helping clients improve or regain muscle extensibility.
This is because cold can mask the pain and discomfort of stretching, making maneuvers more effective, wrote the study’s authors.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, physiotherapist and osteopath Stanley Lanting of Orthosport Manila said that it would be good to limit the use of cold to warm up maneuvers because using it after exercise can put a stop to the benefits of a workout on the body.
However, he is “in between” when it comes to the use of either heat or cold because they both initially have an effect. For injuries, especially, they are effective when applied within 24 hours. There is also a risk of making the effects of heat or cold less effective.
“Psychologically may factor naman tayo sa body natin, na once na may nilalagay tayo sa part na iyon, hot or cold, magse-send siya ng stimulation na… kunyari 'pag may injury sa knee, nase-sense ni brain. Once na naglagay ka ng bagay doon, iba-block niya ang sensation na dadalhin ng brain,” he said.
Both heat and cold have effects on performance, he said.
“Kung performance ang target mo, may effect din naman siya. Ang maganda dun, parehas sila nagi-increase ng flexibility. Kapag mas mahaba ang muscle mo, mas malaki ang capacity niyang mag-compress,” he said.
He also cautioned against following a recent trend of ice baths after workouts to lessen inflammation.
Citing American sports and physical therapist Dr. John Rusin, Lanting said that it is necessary to leave the body alone after a workout to allow it to recover properly.
“It's part of the recovery stage. Natural sa body natin, it's a natural response. Pag namaga, it's in the process of going back to its state,” he said.