What is cryotherapy?

There are various methods that can be utilized to apply the diverse forms of cold therapy. The method used usually depends on the part of the body affected and the form of injury sustained by the individual.

An ice pack is any form of container that holds chipped or crushed ice. It can be a towel, plastic bag or a specially designed ice bag. These are known to cool the underlying tissue more effectively than the commercial frozen or chemical gel packs and stays cold for a longer period. The packs can be held in place if needed using an elastic bandage or wrap. In case you are in doubt, it is best to consult a doctor if cold therapy can be used.


An ice pack is any form of container that holds chipped or crushed ice. It can be a towel, plastic bag or a specially designed ice bag.

Ice bath

You can prepare an ice bath by half-filling a large tub with cold water and ice. The depth of the water and size of the container depends on the body part that requires treatment. This is suitable for body parts such as the foot, hand, ankle and elbow. Right after the injury, immersing the affected body part might not be as beneficial as using a cold pack and compression wrap since compression is not provided. By covering the ankle before submersion, it can help thwart maximal cooling by shielding the body part.

Ice massage

Ice can be used to massage the affected area. The ice cube must be stroked in an up and down manner over the injured muscle. The downside with this type of massage is that the application is phasic in which the ice is in contact with the area only momentarily. After application, the area is exposed to room temperature that reduces the effectiveness of tissue cooling.

Chemical cold packs

When these packs are used, the central pouch is compressed and ruptured which releases a second chemical that triggers a reaction which reduces the temperature of the pack. These packs do no reduce the temperature enough to drastically reduce the tissue temperature. These packs are convenient for emergency use but a leak can cause a chemical burn.

Gel packs

These are commercially available packs that contain a gelatin-like substance that is kept frozen in a freezer until needed. Some of these packs contain a form of anti-freeze that prevents the gel from freezing into a stiff position, thus allowing the pack to mold to the shape of the body part. Gel packs are reusable but once taken out of the freezer, they start to thaw. The packs must be applied to the skin using a cloth or towel to prevent frostbite.

Vapocoolant sprays

These sprays tend to evaporate quickly once in contact with the skin. This works by removing heat from the skin at the same time. Vapocoolant sprays provide a superficial cooling effect and the efficiency is limited.


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