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Table 1 Summary of tissue temperature changes induced by various forms of cryotherapy and subsequent changes in potential physiological mechanisms

From: Cold-water immersion and other forms of cryotherapy: physiological changes potentially affecting recovery from high-intensity exercise

  Method T sk T m T c Oxygen use Blood flow (%Δ from baseline) HR Oedema Applications/conclusions References
    Superficial Deep 0 h Nadir   Skin IM     
Ice pack 0.3–1.8 kg crushed ice 5°C–7.5°C 26.58°Ca–27.9°C 28.21°Ca–31.82°C        ↓46% fair signal intensity Limited performance or function data may reduce oedema post-eccentric exercise [43, 45, 46, 54, 55, 66]
   Δ −25.0°C–30°C Δ −7.0°C–9.7°C Δ −4.46°C–8.38°C  
(20–30 min) (5–10 min post-cool) (10–15 min post-cool)
Cold pack application (no phase change) 0°C–10°C for 20–30 min 7.9°C–22.5°C 15°C–24.8°C       ↓20%–40%   ↓0.822% ∆ in MRI T2 values No performance data [44, 48, 64]
Δ −12°C–23°C Δ −9.7°C–18°C
(20–30 min) (20 min)
CWI partial immersion 0°C–12°C for 3–15 min 11°C–15.1°C 20°Ca–30.4°C 33.3°Ca–34.0°C 37.12°C 37.11°Ca   ↓24% (20 min post-cool) ↓30%–40% (30 min post-cool) ↑5–10 bpm (1st minute of cooling) ↓2.5% ∆ in MRI T2 value (48 h) Post-eccentric—equivocal [4, 25, 33, 38]
Δ −14.5°C–20°C Δ −13.6°C–15.0°C Δ −2.0°C–4.3°C Δ −0.11°C Δ −0.23°C Post-high-intensity interval—somewhat beneficial  
(2–10 min) (5–30 min post-cool) (5–60 min post-cool) (0 h) (30 min post-cool) Lacking performance studies that measure temperature or mechanisms  
CWI partial immersion 12°C–21°C for 3–60 min 17°C–26°C 32.2°Ca 34.3°Ca–34.5°C 36.3°C–37.6°C 36.2°Ca–37.3°C       Post-eccentric—equivocal [6, 9, 38, 52, 53, 72]
Δ −7°C–17.2°C Δ not recorded Δ −1.6°C–1.8°C Δ −0.01–6°C Δ −0.1–0.4°C       Post-high-intensity interval—somewhat beneficial  
(3–60 min) (30 min post-cool) (30–60 min post-cool) (0 h) (30 min post-cool) ↓2.5 tissue oxygenation index (12 min)   ↓20 (15 min)    Lacking performance studies that measure temperature or mechanisms  
CWI head-out immersion 14–15°C for 14–20 min    32.3°Ca 34.7°C–37.7°C 36.0°Ca–36.8°C    ↓76% from post-exercise ↓12 pm (post-cool vs. active recovery) ↓0.70025 mid-thigh girth Maintains or improves performance in bouts of exhaustive exercise (i.e. cycling time trial or sprint) that are within hours, when used as a between bout recovery [911, 38, 67]
Δ −5.9°C Δ −0.9°C–1.3°C Δ −1.8°C–2.0°C    Not studied following eccentric or high-intensity interval exercise
(35 min post-cool) (0 h) (15–30 min post-cool)   
Whole body cryotherapy −110°C for 3–4 min 17.0   34.5°Ca 37.8°C–37.9°C 37.2°Ca–37.5°C       No performance differences reported [55, 76]
Δ −13.2°C Δ −1.6°C Δ −0.3°C–0.07°C Δ −0.25°C–0.3°C
(0–1 min) (60 min post-cool) (0 h) (3–8 min post-cool) Reductions in inflammatory markers have been shown
  1. Methodologies within each form of cryotherapy are variables. Ranges for duration of application, temperature and/or mass of cooling medium are given where applicable. ‘Tsk’ denotes skin temperature, ‘T m denotes muscle temperature, ‘Tc’ denotes core temperature and ‘IM’ denotes intramuscular. For all temperature changes, the range is given, followed by change from baseline (denoted by delta ‘Δ’), and time at which these measurements were recorded (shown in brackets). aValues were recorded in the post-cooling period.