The use of cold in therapy, or cryotherapy, is often applied to a new injury or a recently re-injured old injury to decrease pain, muscle spasm, and swelling. Ice slows blood flow to the injured area and minimizes damage done by interrupted circulation. Ice is the safest and most effective way of treating sprains, strains, muscle spasm, and bruises. Health care practitioners frequently prescribe ice for a wide range of muscle and joint complaints.
What You Will Feel: When ice is properly applied, the following sensations will occur during a normal treatment:
The first time you apply ice, it can be very uncomfortable, but each treatment will get easier and easier as you get used to the ice application.
Home Application: The easiest, safest, and most effective way of applying ice at home is to use a plastic bag half filled with ice cubes and wrapped in a single layer of damp towel. The ice should be applied directly over the injury and left on for a period of twenty minutes. It can be reapplied a necessary so long as there is a 60 minute wait between applications to allow the temperature of the injured tissue to return to normal. Generally, the application of ice to a new or recently aggravated injury is most effective in the first 24 to 72 hours.
Another method of ice application at home is ice massage, which can be done with an ice cube or a paper cup filled with water then frozen. Application of ice massage should last no longer than 5 minutes and should be applied directly over the site of injury in a circular motion from the center of the injury out in an area no bigger than your hand.
If you have problems with circulation or decreased sensation in the injured area, talk to your therapist before beginning treatment.