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Cryotherapy – A Wonder Tool for Expert Physical Therapists!

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Use of ice or cold packs, better known as cryotherapy, is an age old practice in India for treating injuries. Now, this practice has garnered great reputation overseas as well because of its efficacy, convenience, affordability, and easy availability. The application and use of ice packs is popular simply because of its local anesthetic effects in order to achieve good pain relief in case of injuries. Not only does it help with pain control, but also it helps in decreasing edema or inflammation, promoting localized numbness by decreasing the nerve conduction velocities temporarily, decreasing the local blood flow and minimizing cellular metabolism. The effectiveness of cryotherapy largely depends on factors like duration of treatment, its temperature, and the depth of penetration needed inside the subcutaneous fat deposits to achieve the desired effect.

It Is the Lewis Hunting Phenomenon that is Behind the Wide Popularity of Cryotherapy!

In 1930, Thomas Lewis first described the methodology of how cryotherapy works when an injury occurs and how cryotherapy is helpful in such situations. Per his work, any physical injury causes vasoconstriction as a body’s natural response to injury in order to prevent heat loss thereby resulting in cooling of the injured extremities. Once ice is applied over the injured portion for around 10-15 minutes, naturally the blood vessels present in the affected or injured area start to dilate causing vasodilation. So, this process of vasoconstriction followed by icing and followed by vasodilation is better known as Hunting Response. The use of cryotherapy aids in decreasing the amount of neurotransmitters released from the local sympathetic nerves into the muscular coating present at the arteriovenous junctions causing significant vasodilation effect. This cryotherapy induced vasodilation results in increased blood flow towards the injured tissues and also causes mild rise in temperature of the fingers. You can immediately see a new phase of repeated vasoconstriction followed by vasodilation as a result of icing. Generally, vasodilation effect can be seen after approx. 15 minutes of icing while the temperature is maintained at around 10 0C.

Various Techniques How Cryotherapy Can Be Applied?

  • Use of Ice Packs: It is the commonest and most popular method for application of cryotherapy. It uses crushed, wetted, and cubed ice that is packed inside the ice packs since the wetted ice is found to be extremely potent during the treatment session in lowering and maintaining the surface temperature of the affected area and also during the recovery phase. It is also known to lower the intramuscular temperature.

  • Immersion: A whirlpool or a simple immersion technique can be used for this type of cryotherapy.

  • Ice Spray Technique: Ice spray can also be used to produce a similar ice-cooling effect.

  • Massaging with Ice: Massaging the area with ice in circular motion for 10-15 minutes can also be used.

More recently, patients with persistent pain symptoms or rheumatologic diseases and even athletes generally benefited with whole body cryotherapy to achieve pain relief and aid in overall recovery from any injuries.

Which Conditions Can be Treated Utilizing Cryotherapy Techniques?

  • Muscular or ligamentous sprains.

  • Soft tissue injuries that are acute in nature.

  • Tendinitis and Bursitis

  • Symptoms of acute limb swelling.

  • Myofascial trigger points.

  • Post-surgical rehabilitation for orthopedic surgeries such as shoulder and knee arthroscopies, ACL reconstruction, knee and shoulder replacements, etc.

  • High-impact sports injuries.

Benefits of Cryotherapy!

  • It’s low cost and provides good pain relief.

  • Reduces swelling in and around the injury sites.

  • Help decrease surface temperature.

  • Most popular in treating soft tissue injuries with great efficacy.

1 Health – An Expert Group of Highly Skilled & Well Trained Cryotherapy Specialists!

If you are eager to know more about cryotherapy, how it works, and its major benefits, contact the 1 Health specialists, who are highly skilled and well qualified physical therapists known for their expertise in practicing cryotherapy for decades.

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