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CRYOTHERAPY- also known as ice therapy

Cryotherapy is the application of ice, cold packs, or ice massage to the damaged tissues.

Always consult a health care professional before self-administering any therapy. However, when in doubt, first use ice. Then call your doctor.

To remember what to do after an injury, experts use the mnemonic PRICE

  Protect the area
Rest the injured tissue
Ice application
Compress by wrapping, if appropriate, such as a twisted ankle
Elevate to reduce swelling


    For Swelling:

Lowering the temperature of an injured area constricts blood vessels, reducing further swelling which also eases pain.

    For Pain:

Very cold temperatures diminish nerve transmission of painful symptoms to provide temporary relief, in effect numbing painful tissues. The sensation of applying cold, that you will feel over a period of approximately 15-20 minutes, is described by experts with another mnemonic: CBAN


Never apply cold to your skin directly. If the ice is not moving frostbite can occur.
Instead, use a towel between the ice and your skin..

    For Spasm:

At the first sign of a muscle spasm, stop your activity and try stretching and massaging the affected muscle. MOIST HEAT will relax the muscle at first, although ice may be helpful after the initial spasm and pain has improved.


Everyone has access to ice. You can apply it yourself virtually free.

Reduces pain and swelling

Numbs injured tissues to reduce pain

Helpful for muscle spasms after the initial spasm and pain has improved

Ice can improve the entire healing process. It’s not just for the first day.


This form of cryotherapy is useful for small identifiable areas of pain, such as a strained shoulder joint. Fill several paper cups with water and freeze them into “popsicles”. You can then tear off some of the cup to expose the ice. Move the ice continuously over your injured tissue “massaging” the area with the frozen ice. It will get very cold quickly. Use this for about 4-5 minutes.

Caution: Do not keep the ice in one place or you will freeze your skin causing frostbite.


After the initial acute stage of injury (usually the first 48 hours) switching back and forth between ice and MOIST HEAT will further increase healing and pain relief. Heat relaxes muscle spasm and increases circulation. Cold reduces swelling and pain.

Apply cold for 15 minutes – rest 15 minutes – then use moist heat for 15 minutes. Some people prefer to reverse the heat vs. cold, because it feels better. Try it each way to your preference.

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