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J Athl Train. 1993 Summer; 28(2): 172, 174-176.
PMCID: PMC1317700

1992 Student Writing Contest—1st Runner-up

A Comparison of Thermotherapy and Cryotherapy in Enhancing Supine, Extended-leg, Hip Flexion
Julie Minton, BS, ATC


Eighteen healthy subjects (13 females and 5 males) were pretested and posttested under two treatment conditions in order to compare the effects of cryotherapy and thermotherapy on supine, extended-leg, hip flexion measurements. Cryotherapy treatments consisted of crushed ice bags secured to the posterior thigh for 20 minutes. On a separate day, thermotherapy treatment of moist heat pads were applied to the posterior thigh for 20 minutes. For pretest and posttest measurements, the subject's extended leg was taken to the end feel of passive hip flexion as maximum range of motion was assessed using a goniometer. Both cryotherapy and thermotherapy significantly improved immediate range of motion; however, there were no differences between the two treatment conditions. These results suggest that athletes wishing to obtain maximum range of motion immediately after treatment may select either ice or heat modalities. Individual conditions and preferences can be used to dictate treatment selection.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • ABRAMSON DI, MITCHELL RE, TUCK S, Jr, BELL Y, ZAYS AM. Changes in blood flow, oxygen uptake and tissue temperatures produced by the topical application of wet heat. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1961 May;42:305–318. [PubMed]
  • Chambers R. Clinical uses of cryotherapy. Phys Ther. 1969 Mar;49(3):245–249. [PubMed]
  • CLARKE RS, HELLON RF, LIND AR. Vascular reactions of the human forearm to cold. Clin Sci (Lond) 1958 Feb;17(1):165–179. [PubMed]
  • Knight KL, Londeree BR. Comparison of blood flow in the ankle of uninjured subjects during therapeutic applications of heat, cold, and exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1980 Spring;12(1):76–80. [PubMed]
  • Olson JE, Stravino VD. A review of cryotherapy. Phys Ther. 1972 Aug;52(8):840–853. [PubMed]
  • Price R, Lehmann JF. Influence of muscle cooling on the viscoelastic response of the human ankle to sinusoidal displacements. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1990 Sep;71(10):745–748. [PubMed]
  • Shellock FG, Prentice WE. Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Med. 1985 Jul-Aug;2(4):267–278. [PubMed]
  • WRIGHT V, JOHNS RJ. Physical factors concerned with the stiffness of normal and diseased joints. Bull Johns Hopkins Hosp. 1960 Apr;106:215–231. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Athletic Training are provided here courtesy of National Athletic Trainers Association