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Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is a type of physiotherapy with direct application of a cold pack or ice water immersion over an affected area for about 15 to 20 minutes, usually 2 to 3 times a day. The proportion of ice to water should be 1:1.

Aims:

Cold application decreases the temperature and improves circulation of the applied area through the pumping action of the vessels with the followings effects

  • Reduce acute swelling
  • Relieve pain
  • Promote soft tissue healing

Indications:

Acute inflammation (the affected part is hot, swollen and painful)
(For example, sprain injury of ankle, acute arthritis, gouty arthritis)

Precautions:

If you have heart disease or hypertension, it is advisable to consult your doctor or physiotherapist before application. If there is any discomfort during the application, stop immediately. Seek medical advice in case of doubt.

Contraindications:

Cold application is not suitable for the following conditions:

  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Open wound
  • Skin sensation impairment (e.g. some diabetic patients)
  • Severe cognitive impairment (e.g. dementia patients)
  • Cold allergy

After application:

After cold application, it is usual to have temporary coldness and numbness of the applied area. If there is persistent numbness, pain or severe discomfort result, seek medical advice.

Conclusion:

Cold therapy is useful especially when combined with adequate rest, proper care, correct posture and supplementary exercise after acute inflammation. It can help to speed up the recovery of many painful conditions. If in doubt, seek advice from a physiotherapist or health staff.