What is cryotherapy : therapeutic effects and uses

Cryotherapy is the treatment method to treat damage caused to a part of the body due to injury or illness by using ice, frozen gel packs and vapocoolant sprays.


Cryotherapy is the treatment method to treat damage caused to a part of the body due to injury or illness by using ice, frozen gel packs and vapocoolant sprays.

This technique is widely used in rehabilitation and other areas of medicine. It shows its therapeutic effects by neuromuscular, hemodynamic and metabolic process.

Therapeutic effects of cryotherapy

1. Acute inflammation

For example acute inflammation like acute sprain of lateral ligament of ankle, its recommended to apply cold immediately after injury for 10-15 minutes.

2. For control of edema

After acute inflammation there is localized edema (redness of area), cold is applied to that area for relief of edema. Example – post traumatic effusion of knee

3. Pain control

Cryotherapy is helpful in reduction of pain by pain gait mechanism and other indirect effects.

4. Spasticity reduction

spasticity is abnormal increase in muscle tone or stiffness of muscle, which interfere with movement, speech, or be associated with discomfort or pain.

For spasticity reduction cold must be applied for longer period upto 30 minutes to reduce muscle temperature which causes decrease in motor nerve supply and inhibit contraction of spastic muscles.

5. Multiple sclerosis symptoms management

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis increases in hot climate or with excessive exercise. Cooling is used to decrease symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Physiological effects of cryotherapy

Haemodynamic effects

When cold is applied to body part it causes decrease in blood flow initially due to vasoconstriction, but after 15-20 minutes there is vasodilation of area for around 15 minutes and after that again vasoconstriction and this cycle continues. ( Lewis hunting response )

Neuromuscular effects

  • Decrease in nerve conduction velocity
  • Increase in pain threshold
  • Alteration in muscle strength
  • Facilities muscle contraction
  • Decrease of spasticity

Metabolic effects

Cold reduces the metabolic rate, that is why cold is selected in acute inflammation. It also inhibit the activity of cartilage destroying enzymes.

Methods of application

1. Cold pack/Ice pack

You can made ice pack at home or buy from outside stores. For making ice pack at home you can simply wrap ice in towel or plastic bag.

how to apply – After preparation of ice pack, a vegetarian or nut oil is spread over body part and ice pack is placed over the part to be treated.

Ice pack is left for 10-15 minutes for pain control, edema reduction, to decrease inflammation etc. But for spasticity reduction the pack should be kept for atleast 30 minutes.

Check for any adverse effect in between 10-15 minutes. You can apply ice pack repeatedly after every 1-2 hour’s for better results.

2. Ice massage

This is the most common method in this method ice Cup or Ice blocked may be used and it is applied over a small area of inflammation, ice massage should be applied for 10 to 15 minutes, this technique is very useful for treatment of pressure sores.

3. Ice towels

Ice towel is prepared by putting a towel in a bucket containing crushed or flaked Ice, after cooling of towel, it is wringing to remove excess water. Then the towel is placed at affected part.

This method of cooling is effective for cooling of superficial body parts and better for large areas treatment.

4. Immersion technique

In this method the body part is immersed in an ice water, it is better for digital parts of body such as hand and feet. For preparation of solution you need 50% Ice and 50% water and placed in a container or bucket.

For better results the body part has to be immersed for either single 10 minutes session or a series of short time for total 10 minutes.

5. Vapocoolant sprays

Vapocoolant sprays are very much effective and used widely in sports field for sports injury treatment and for stretching of tight muscles.

The only disadvantage of this is that it is short lived, means its effect last for only few minutes. It is made up of volatile substances like ethyl chloride, fluori methane etc.

Contraindications of cryotherapy

In peripheral vascular diseases – It is not used in peripheral vascular disorders like atherosclerosis in which there is impairment of blood circulation over perticular part of body.

Cold urticaria – It is not used in patients with cold urticaria because it may cause itching and development of erythema in that area.

Cryoglobulinemia – By application of cold the proteins in blood precipitate and cause blockage in blood supply.

Over regenerating nerves – Cold should not be applied directly over regenerating nerves because it may cause vasoconstriction and affect the nerve regeneration.

Precautions of cryotherapy

The cryotherapy should be applied with caution in those conditions.

  • Open wound
  • Cardiac diseases
  • Defective skin sensation
  • Skin hypersensitivity
  • Patients with mental and psychological problems.

Bottom line

This is the short and simple discuss about cryotherapy and its therapeutic effects, physiological effects, contraindications and precautions of cryotherapy. We hope you understand all things clearly, still if you have any queries about it then please comment. For more information about physiotherapy please checkout our website.



  1. I appreciate, lead to I discovered exactly what I
    used to be taking a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day lengthy hunt!
    God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  2. I find this very well informed. Can I counter
    with some questions?

  3. You actually make it appear really easy along with your presentation however I
    find this matter to be actually one thing that I think I might by no means understand.
    It kind of feels too complicated and very extensive for me.
    I am having a look forward in your next post, I’ll attempt to get
    the cling of it!

  4. Magnificent website. Lots of useful info here.

    I’m sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And naturally, thank you to your sweat!

  5. Avatar Mae

    What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable experience concerning
    unexpected emotions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *