What is cryotherapy?

It is a set of procedures that use cold temperature in medical therapeutics.

It differs from hypothermia because it decreases the central temperature of the organism, while cryotherapy decreases the peripheral temperature and is usually punctual.

Cold is the sensation produced by heat loss or by stimulation of specific nerve receptors.

The cold stimulus subtracts heat from the body. The intensity of this cooling depends mainly on four factors:

  • Temperature difference between cold agent and tissues
  • Exhibithion time
  • The thermal conductivity of the treated area
  • Type of cold agent used.

Physiological effects of cryotherapy

These effects depend on the intensity, time and treatment surface.

  • Temperature decrease
  • Tissue metabolism decrease
  • Decreased blood flow
  • Inflammation decrease
  • Decreased edema
  • Analgesia by direct action on nerve endings and indirectly by reducing spasm and swelling
  • Antispasmodic effect
  • Increased metabolism at the expense of fats
  • Diuretic action

Therapeutic application

  • Ice packs: They give a deeper cooling, are homemade and easy to use. This is ice crushed for 20 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day. It must be combined with “CRICER” technique (ice plus rest, elevation and compression).
  • Cold packs: They are adaptable to the area to be treated. It is ice pressed with isopropyl alcohol. They should be cooled at least two hours before application, which should not be longer than 20 minutes.
  • Towels or cold packs: They give a superficial cooling since they are thick cloths in a container with crushed ice.
  • Cryomassage: Massage with ice or other cold agent.
  • Immersion in ice water or ice: It is used for large areas for 5 or 20 minutes. The segment must be removed for a few seconds during application.
  • Cooling aerosols: Destroy surface tissues. Usually ethyl chloride is used at trigger points. To apply them, you must go from distal to proximal, about 30 cm from the area in 3 or 4 sweeps, You must accompany stretching.
  • Contrast baths: Sudden and alternate immersions of hot water (between 40 and 43 degrees) and cold water (between 15 and 18 degrees).
  • Hydrotherapy in cold water.


  • Acute Postrauma
  • Cryokinetics
  • Spasticity
  • Slight and superficial burns
  • Conditions with pain and itching
  • Inflammatory processes
  • Edemas
  • Skin and aesthetic conditions
  • Hemorrhagic phase
  • Contractures and muscle spasms
  • Fever: In these cases, generalized applications are used either due to infectious, surgical, neurogenic, dehydration or drug causes.

Contraindications and precautions

  • Hypertensive
  • Joint stiffness
  • Wounds
  • Decrease or loss of sensitivity
  • Vasospasms
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Cold intolerance
  • Obliterating Thromboangeitis

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