Cryotherapy is a term that describes the application of ice,
cold towels, ice massage and compresses to reduce the temperature of tissues
directly on or below the surface of the skin. Ice is most often used to manage
acute injuries or recent eruptions of chronic conditions. Cooling injured and
swollen tissue is effective in reducing and preventing post-traumatic swelling.
Cryotherapy is inexpensive, readily available, and an easy way to reduce local
swelling of inflamed tissues. Surface cooling constricts blood vessels, numbs
painful areas, and helps relax muscle spasm. Cold temperatures reduce nerve
transmission of painful symptoms and provide temporary relief.
Cryotherapy helps reduce swelling, inflammation, numbs affected area to reduce
pain, and reduces muscle spasms. The most effective way to apply cold therapy
is to wrap crushed ice cubes in a damp tea towel and apply directly to the
skin, this produces far more cold energy than using a bag of peas or a gel ice
pack and so the cold energy penetrates far deeper into the injured area.
Cold therapy should be used predominantly in the acute phase (48-72 hours after
the injury) to reduce further damage. It can also be used immediately following
any rehabilitation exercise on the injured area as precaution against over
exertion during the recovery period.