Cold therapy is a non-surgical non-medication modality used to help relieve pain and swelling. Cold therapy is commonly used immediately following an injury. There are many forms of cold therapy, including ice massage, commercial cold packs, or ice packs. Your doctor or rehabilitation therapist may use cold therapy in conjunction with other treatments, such as heat, ultrasound, or exercise therapy.
Cold therapy causes the blood vessels in the affected area to constrict. As a result, blood flow to the affected area is reduced. This can produce a numbing effect to relieve pain. The slowed circulation can also help to reduce swelling and inflammation. When the cold application is removed, the increase in blood flow aids in the healing process.
Your doctor or therapist can provide cold therapy and give you a schedule to use at home. Cold therapy should only be applied for 15 minutes or less. The cold packs should never come in direct contact with your skin. It should be wrapped in a protective barrier, such as a towel before application. You may repeat cold applications as instructed by your doctor or therapist.