Cold (Ice) Pack

Cryotherapy literally means cold therapy and is typically used in the form of cold (ice) packs, but can also be applied in various ways, including coolant sprays, ice massage, and cold whirlpools, or ice baths. When used to treat injuries at home, cold therapy refers to therapy with ice or gel packs that are usually kept in the freezer until needed. These remain one of the simplest, time-tested remedies for managing pain and swelling. 

Experts believe that cold therapy can reduce swelling, which is tied to pain. It may also reduce sensitivity to pain. Cold therapy may be particularly effective when you are managing pain with swelling, especially around a joint or tendon. Cold therapy is the "I" component of R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). This is a R.I.C.E. is the treatment recommended for the home care of many injuries. 

Applying cold (ice) packs: lowers your skin temperature, reduces the nerve activity, and reduces pain and swelling. Putting cold (ice ) packs or frozen items directly on your skin can ease pain, but it also can damage your skin. It's best to wrap the cold (ice) pack in a thin towel to protect your skin from the direct cold to prevent frostbite. Stop applying ice if you lose feeling on the skin where you are applying it. Also, you may want to avoid cold therapy if you have certain medical conditions, like diabetes, that affect how well you can sense tissue damage.

Acute injuries are those which result from traumatic incidents, for example, a fall, twisting movement, or direct blow for example, and are immediately painful. When an acute injury first occurs, bleeding, inflammation, swelling, and pain must all be controlled. Ice should be applied as soon as possible in order to cool the tissues, reduce their metabolic rate, nerve conduction velocity, and cause vasoconstriction of the surrounding blood vessels.

Cold (Ice) pack therapy should remain in contact for up to 20 minutes at a time depending on the size of the area being treated and the depth of the injured tissues. It should be re-applied regularly, every 1-3 hours. Following approximately the first 3-5 days of an acute injury, once bleeding has stopped and there are no signs of inflammation, you may wish to alternate cold and heat treatments (see contrast therapy).

You might need to combine cold therapy with other approaches to pain management:

  • Rest. Take a break from activities that can make your pain worse.
  • Compression. Applying pressure to the area can help control swelling and pain. This also stabilizes the area so that you do not further injure yourself.
  • Elevation. Put your feet up, or elevate whatever body part is in pain.
  • Essential fatty acids and antioxidant supplements and/or reducing carbohydrates can help reduce inflammation thus ease discomfort. 
  • Rehabilitation exercises. Depending on where your injury is, you might want to try stretching and strengthening exercises that can support the area as recommended by your healthcare provider. 


A contraindication to cold therapy is an injury or condition that would make applying cold therapy to a sports injury dangerous. This means that if you have any of these conditions then applying cold therapy is likely to be bad for you or cause further injury: Raynaud’s Phenomenon, cold hypersensitivity, anaesthesia, 

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