The use of thermal imaging in assessing skin temperature following cryotherapy: a review

Costello, Joseph T., McInerney, Ciarán D., Bleakley, Chris M., Selfe, James and Donnelly, Alan E. (2012) The use of thermal imaging in assessing skin temperature following cryotherapy: a review. Journal of Thermal Biology, 37 (2). pp. 103-110. ISSN 0306-4565

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Background: Cryotherapy is used in various clinical and sporting settings to reduce odema, decrease nerve conduction velocity, decrease tissue metabolism and to facilitate recovery after exercise induced muscle damage. The basic premise of cryotherapy is to cool tissue temperature and various modalities of cryotherapy such as whole body cryotherapy, cold spray, cryotherapy cuffs, frozen peas, cold water immersion, ice, and cold packs are currently being used to achieve this. However, despite its widespread use, little is known regarding the effectiveness of different cryotherapy modalities to reduce skin temperature.
Objectives: To provide a synopsis of the use of thermal imaging as a method of assessing skin temperature following cryotherapy and to report the magnitude of skin temperature reductions associated with various modalities of cooling.
Design: Structured narrative review.
Methods: Three electronic databases were searched using keywords and MESH headings related to the use of thermal imaging in the assessment of skin temperature following cryotherapy. A hand-search of reference lists and relevant journals and text books complemented the electronic search.
Summary:Nineteen studies met the inclusion criteria. A skin temperature reduction of 5–15 °C, in accordance with the recent PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) guidelines, were achieved using cold air, ice massage, crushed ice, cryotherapy cuffs, ice pack, and cold water immersion. There is evidence supporting the use and effectiveness of thermal imaging in order to access skin temperature following the application of cryotherapy.
Conclusions: Thermal imaging is a safe and non-invasive method of collecting skin temperature. Although further research is required, in terms of structuring specific guidelines and protocols, thermal imaging appears to be an accurate and reliable method of collecting skin temperature data following cryotherapy. Currently there is ambiguity regarding the optimal skin temperature reductions in a medical or sporting setting. However, this review highlights the ability of several different modalities of cryotherapy to reduce skin temperature.

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