Cryotherapy comes from the Greek cryo (κρύο) meaning cold, and therapy (θεραπεία) meaning cure. Cryotherapy is a natural, inexpensive way to manage acute injuries or recent eruptions of chronic conditions, and can be applied in the form of ice, cold packs, cold towels, ice massage or compresses in order to reduce the temperature of tissues directly on or below the skin surface. Ice constricts blood vessels, reduces swelling and inflammation, helps relax muscle spasms and slows nerve transmission of painful symptoms, thereby acting as a natural local anesthetic.
The question that patients always ask Dr. Long is when should they apply heat? When should they use ice? Confusion sometimes abounds concerning these simple, yet helpful, natural procedures. Use heat for the wrong circumstances and you can prolong your problem by making it worse. Dr. Long recommends this rule: Never use any dry heat such as a heating pad, rice bag, or any other pad or device that requires you to heat up or put in the microwave to heat up. Putting dry heat on an acute injury is like putting gasoline on fire…you get more fire, i.e. inflammation & swelling! So just think of your pain as fire…if you add more heat to the fire, you get more fire (I.e. inflammation, swelling, & pain), but if you put ice on the fire, the ice will put out the fire (i.e. inflammation, swelling, & pain)!
Dr. Long only recommends “warm” moist heat (never hot!) such as a warm hot shower, bath,warm Jacuzzi, or warm hot tub at the appropriate time. For instance, after you have completed your full consecutive ice therapy sessions, in order to increase blood circulation and help improve flexibility in your joints or muscles.