Cryotherapy for Pain Management

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Everyone has experienced pain, some of them even experience pain that is severe enough to become a chronic disease. There are many therapies to treat pain, one of which is cryotherapy.

Cryotherapy is a therapy that is quite popular in the world by using cold temperatures to relieve pain in the body. This therapy process can even be carried out in places other than health centers, for example, spas and gyms.

What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses very cold temperatures to freeze and damage abnormal tissue or irritated nerves. This cold temperature is produced from substances in the form of liquid nitrogen and argon gas. This therapy can be used to treat body parts externally (outside the skin) or internally (inside the skin).

However, it should be noted that cryotherapy is not a treatment approved by the FDA or the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of any condition.

Cryotherapy can be applied in various ways, for example by spraying cold liquid and compressing the body using ice, ice baths, ice massage, or whirlpools. You can even do it yourself at home to treat minor pain due to injury by compressing ice. If done correctly, it can significantly reduce pain and eliminate swelling.

Purpose of Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy aims to remove damaged tissue that causes disease, various medical conditions can cause tissue damage.

Cryotherapy for Pain Management

Cryotherapy is not yet a medical treatment because the FDA has not claimed this therapy, so people need to be careful and alert to the possible side effects that they will get.

However, several studies claim that cryotherapy can treat pain due to sports injuries. Some mild conditions that can be treated by cryotherapy include:

  • Inflammation, the way cryotherapy works in managing inflammation is by lowering the temperature of the skin and muscles, so that pain and swelling due to inflammation can be reduced.
  • Recovery after exercise, cryotherapy can reduce the pain that occurs after exercise, so you can do other activities freely.

There are also claims that cryotherapy helps your body become more relaxed so it can overcome insomnia. Some skin problems, such as moles and warts, can also be treated by freezing the abnormal tissue and destroying it.

Several other more serious health conditions are also claimed to be able to be treated with cryotherapy, for example:

  • Asthma
  • Migraines
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Multiple sclerosis

Cryotherapy can even be used as therapy for several types of cancer, such as:

  • Bone cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Heart cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Retinoblastoma

Cryotherapy for cancer will target an area in your body that has abnormal cells and then destroy them. This is certainly an extraordinary innovation, considering that this therapy procedure is carried out from outside the body so there is no need for body surgery.

How Cryotherapy Works

Cryotherapy utilizes cold temperatures in the very cold range, namely -100°C to -140°C (-148°F or -220°F). This temperature will reduce body temperature and damage irritated nerves.

1. Reduce Pain

The cold temperature received by the body will numb the soft tissue, and then the production of pain mediators will decrease, thereby reducing the pain felt by the body. That way, the spread of pain to the nerves will also slow down.

When an area of ​​the body feels cold, blood will gather in that organ to protect it. When you finish undergoing Cryotherapy, oxygen-rich blood will flow back to other organs. This is what speeds up recovery from pain.

When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, nerve cells constrict, causing reduced blood flow. So, when there is a lot of blood in the injured area, the pain is reduced.

2. Reduces Swelling

When experiencing an injury, swelling of the injured area of ​​the body is very likely to occur. The buildup of edema in injured body tissue and the buildup of white blood cells are the main factors for inflammation and swelling.

If you do cryotherapy on a swollen area, this therapy will stimulate the anti-inflammatory norepinephrine which will reduce pain and swelling.

Apart from reducing swelling, cryotherapy can also keep white blood cells working optimally by putting pressure on the body. As a result, the body’s condition is more immune to various diseases such as cancer and tumors or the risk of swelling due to other injuries that may occur in the future.

3. Improve Sleep Quality

One health condition that can be treated with cryotherapy is insomnia. So, the way cryotherapy works in curing insomnia is by exposing the body to cold temperatures so that the body releases endorphins. These endorphins will increase the production of norepinephrine, a hormone that functions to increase feelings of happiness.

If your mood is better and free from anxiety, you can have better quality sleep. If you can get enough rest and sleep, recovery from the pain you suffer will be faster, making your body healthier.

So, if you have sleep complaints or insomnia, cryotherapy could be one of the treatments to consider. This therapy is safe and effective if treatment is carried out appropriately.

Cryotherapy Procedure

1. Procedure by a Doctor

There are two methods of cryotherapy carried out by doctors, these methods are divided based on the location of the pain in the body.

  • External: The doctor will apply, compress, or spray a freezing fluid on the tissue located outside the skin.
  • Internal: To treat internal diseases such as cancer or tumors, the doctor will freeze the tissue inside the skin by inserting an instrument called a cryoprobe through a small incision made in the skin. The temperature of the probe will be lowered thereby freezing the abnormal nerves.

2. Cryotherapy Process at Home

For some health conditions with pain that is not severe, you can do the cryotherapy process yourself at home. Some conditions that you can treat by doing cryotherapy at home include:

  • Knee pain
  • Back pain
  • Swelling due to minor injury
  • Sprained
  • Arthritis
  • Tendonitis

Steps For The Cryotherapy Procedure At Home:

  • If you use ice cubes or frozen objects, wrap them in a cloth or towel to protect your skin from the risk of skin damage.
  • Cooled packaged gel can also be used for stand-alone cryotherapy.
  • Apply gel or ice compress to the painful area for 10-20 minutes, do this procedure several times a day.
  • Regularly check the skin to ensure the pain is reduced and there is no tissue damage.
  • Ice cubes or cold frozen objects will help reduce body temperature, thereby reducing pain and reducing nerve activity.
  • Stop the cryotherapy process if your skin becomes numb, immediately contact a professional health worker to treat pain in your body.

There are several ways you can speed up recovery as a complement to the independent cryotherapy procedure, namely:

  • Rest: Get enough rest and avoid strenuous activities so that pain recovery is faster.
  • Compression: Apply light pressure to the affected area, this pressure helps reduce swelling and pain. So that the condition of the injured area will be more stable, and no further injuries will arise.
  • Elevation: Position the affected body part by elevating it.
  • Painkillers: You can take painkillers sold in pharmacies to reduce pain.
  • Rehabilitation: Carry out rehabilitation with stretching exercises for the injured body, so that your body doesn’t feel stiff. However, carry out rehabilitation as recommended by the health professional you visit.

Does Cryotherapy Work?

The question of whether cryotherapy works is often asked by people who want to try it for the first time. There’s no harm in finding out about this, considering that there are many different opinions about cryotherapy, especially the FDA which does not recommend this therapy.

Some cryotherapy references found on the internet write different things about the proper temperature, duration of therapy, types of pain that can be treated, and number of treatments. Of course, this makes someone even more confused about whether they are sure or not sure about cryotherapy.

Conditions That Should Not Be Cryotherapy

Not everyone can undergo Cryotherapy. There are several conditions where cryotherapy should not be performed, namely:

  • Cold allergy,
  • Multiple myeloma,
  • Raynaud’s disease,
  • Cryoglobulinemia, blood contains cryoglobulin substances which cause inflammation of the kidneys or skin.

For special conditions such as pregnant and breastfeeding women, you must consult a doctor first. However, in essence, consult first before undergoing cryotherapy, you may not know that you have a condition that cannot undergo cryotherapy.

Risks of Cryotherapy

Considering that this therapy uses cold temperatures as a healing medium, some risks can arise when the cold temperatures used are too extreme. The most common are colds, frostbite, tingling, numbness, blisters, or redness of the skin after undergoing cryotherapy.

Even though it is considered safe, extreme cold temperatures can worsen various diseases you have, such as:

  • Worsen heart disease and lung disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood circulation becomes poor
  • Neuropathy, nerve disease in the legs and feet.


Cryotherapy is useful for managing pain by using cold therapy. Cold therapy can use methods, for example, ice cubes, cold gel, cryoprobes, and so on. This cold temperature will freeze and damage irritated cells.

So, when these cells are successfully destroyed, they can relieve pain, reduce swelling, and improve your mood.