Everything You Need to Know about Cold Therapy

By Savanna Stone
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What is cold therapy?

Cryotherapy, or cold therapy, is a form of therapy used to reduce pain and swelling. 

What are the benefits of cold therapy?

Cold therapy lowers your skin temperature which in turn reduces nerve activity to the brain (makes the injured area numb) and reduces pain and swelling. 

Cold therapy can be used for these things:

  • Inflammatory pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Sprains
  • Tendonitis
  • Runner’s knee
  • Pain and swelling 
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tennis elbow
  • Supraspinatus tendinitis
  • Iliotibial band syndrome
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis

How to apply cold therapy.

Wrap a cold object in a thin towel to protect your skin from freezing. Apply the ice pack for around 10 to 20 minutes a few times a day. Make sure to take breaks with the ice pack so you don’t damage your tissues. It might also help if you use the following techniques with cold therapy to increase healing time: rest, compression, elevation of injured area, pain medicine, or rehabilitation exercises. You should stop applying cold therapy if you lose all feeling in your skin, if it doesn’t relieve your pain, or if you have diabetes. For cold therapy to be most effective, apply cold a few times a day for at least three days.

What products are out there that help apply cold therapy?

Here at Chirp, we have a lot of products that can help you apply cold therapy. One of the best ones is the Handheld Hot & Cold Massage Ball. This product is a ball that comes in a holder so that you don’t have to get your hands cold while applying cold therapy to your injured area. We also have Cold Therapy Socks that can help with foot pain. They are easy to use and stretch so one size fits all.

What you should NOT use cold therapy for.

Ice can make you more stiff and can make pain worse when it is used for the wrong type of pain. Usually cold therapy is not used for most back pain, such as trigger points. If you know your back pain is inflammatory, use cold therapy instead of heat therapy. Refrain from using cold therapy if you have the following symptoms:

  • Decreased sensation on the injured area
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • An open wound
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • If you’re considered elderly or if you are a young child

How does cold therapy help with upper back pain?

Most upper back pain is caused by overuse, injury, poor posture, disc issues, osteoarthritis, or myofascial pain (knots in your back). Cold therapy can work well for all of these issues, especially inflammatory pain. The cold numbs the injured area, promoting healing and slowing circulation to reduce swelling.

How does cold therapy help with lower back pain?

Some say that you should never use ice with lower back pain. However, others suggest that you should be the judge of your own pain. If you have tried both heat therapy and cold therapy on your back and the cold worked better for you, that’s what you should use. Because the most common causes of lower back pain are torn or pulled muscles or ligaments, you should try both cold therapy and heat therapy and see what works best for you. Cold therapy is best for the first 10 to 15 minutes of pain when you receive an injury so that you can numb it quickly. But really other than that, heat therapy is better for most lower back pain (not inflammatory things). 

How does cold therapy help with neck pain?

Most neck pain is caused by muscle strains, worn joints, nerve compression, injuries, or diseases, such as degenerative disc disease, cervical spondylosis, or spinal stenosis. If you’re experiencing neck pain from inflammation or swelling, ice will be especially helpful. Applying ice to your neck will reduce swelling, making it safe for you to continue breathing. 

How does cold therapy help with foot pain?

A good way to apply cold therapy is to start with cold and alternate to hot and end with cold again. This is beneficial for foot pain because the heat therapy will increase blood flow to your feet, healing the hurt area. But alternating will make the brain think your feet are just cold and your brain will send even more blood to your cold feet. 


Sources:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/treating-pain-with-heat-and-cold
  2. https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/heat-therapy-cold-therapy/benefits-heat-therapy-lower-back-pain
  3. https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/heat-therapy-cold-therapy/how-apply-heat-therapy
  4. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=134&contentid=95
  5. https://www.painscience.com/articles/heating.php
  6. https://www.painscience.com/articles/icing-exceptions.php
  7. https://www.painscience.com/articles/ice-heat-confusion.php
  8. https://www.painscience.com/articles/icing.php
  9. https://www.painscience.com/articles/heating.php
  10. https://www.foot-pain-explored.com/cold-treatment.html
  11. https://www.ramsayhealth.co.uk/blog/2016/03/29/11-ways-of-relieving-upper-and-middle-back-pain
  12. https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/heat-cold-pain-relief.php
  13. https://www.painscience.com/articles/icing-exceptions.php 
  14. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/hot-or-cold-for-back-pain