Neovascularisation and microcirculatory changes have been reported in Achilles tendinopathy. Cryotherapy and compression, as part of a rest, ice, compression and elevation regimen, are shown to decrease pain and improve function. However, the microcirculatory changes following a given dosage of cryotherapy on mid‐portion Achilles tendon remain unclear.
Prospective clinical cohort study, level of evidence 2.
30 people (12 males, 33 (SD 12) years, body mass index 25.6 (5.3) kg/m2) were included in the cohort. 3×10 min KoldBlue ankle‐cooling bandages were applied and microcirculation of Achilles tendon mid‐portion was real‐time and continuously assessed using a laser‐Doppler‐spectrophotometry system (O2C, Germany).
Superficial capillary blood flow was reduced from 42 to 6, 5 and 3 relative units (rU) in the first, second and third cryotherapy periods, respectively (−65%, p = 0.001), with no significant capillary hyperaemia. Deep capillary tendon blood flow was reduced from 180 to 82, 53 and 52 rU (−71%, p = 0.001) within 6–9 min of application without hyperaemia. Superficial tendon oxygen saturation dropped significantly from 43% to 26%, 18% and 11% (p = 0.001) after repetitive cryotherapy, with persisting increase of tendon oxygenation during rewarming (51%, 49% and 54%, p = 0.077) up to 27% of the baseline level. At 8 mm tendon depth, cryotherapy preserved local oxygenation. Relative postcapillary venous tendon filling pressures were favourably reduced from 41 (11) to 31, 28 and 26 rU (−36%, p = 0.001) superficially and from 56 (11) to 45, 46 and 48 rU (−18%, p = 0.001) in deep capillary blood flow during cryotherapy, facilitating capillary venous clearance.
Intermittent cryotherapy of 3×10 min significantly decreases local Achilles tendon mid‐portion capillary blood flow by 71%. Within 2 min of rewarming, tendon oxygen saturation is re‐established following cryotherapy. Postcapillary venous filling pressures are reduced during cryotherapy, favouring capillary venous outflow of the healthy Achilles tendon.