Cryotherapy is defined as the application of ice to an injured area of the body while being compressed to decrease the temperature of the tissues in the area. Ice works by constricting blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to an area, which then numbs the painful area and helps to relax painful muscle spasms. Pain is sent to the brain via nerve impulses which are blocked during cryotherapy providing temporary pain relief, and reducing or even preventing post-traumatic swelling. During the initial stages of an injury, the RICE* method should be utilized on the injured area, with cryotherapy being contained within this method. Patients can self-apply cryotherapy, and it is an inexpensive therapy to provide relief.
*RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation