It was a beautiful morning and you decided to run the Ravenel Bridge, however you haven’t ran on an incline for several months. When you get home you notice your knee is tender and swelling. What should you do?
Doctors recommend that you try Cryotherapy, which literally means “cold therapy.” The pain-relieving benefits of snow and ice were first written about by the Greek physician Hippocrates thousands of years ago. When you press a bag of frozen peas on a swollen ankle or knee, you are treating your pain with a modern (although basic) version of cryotherapy.
Using Cold Therapy
Cold therapy is the “I” piece of R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation). R.I.C.E treatment is recommended for many injuries, particularly ones caused by sports.
Cold therapy for pain relief may be used for:
- Runner’s knee
- Arthritis pain
- Pain and swelling after a hip or knee replacement
- Treating pain or swelling under a cast or a splint
- Lower back pain
How to Apply Cold Therapy
Putting ice or frozen items directly on your skin can ease pain, but it can also damage your skin. It’s best to wrap the cold object in a towel to protect your skin from the direct cold, especially if you are using gel packs from the freezer.
Apply the ice or gel pack for brief periods – about 10 to 20 minutes – several times a day. Check your skin often for sensation while using cold therapy. This will help make sure you aren’t damaging the tissues.
You may need to combine cold therapy with other approaches to pain management including:
Rest: Take a break from activities that can make your pain worse.
Compression: Applying pressure to the area can help control swelling and pain. This also stabilizes the area so that you do not further injure yourself.
Elevation: Put your feet up or elevate whatever body part is in pain.
Pain medicine: Over-the-counter products can help ease discomfort.
Rehabilitation exercises: Depending on where your injury is, you might want to try stretching and strengthening exercises that can support the area as recommended by your doctor.
Stop applying ice if you lose feeling on the skin where you are applying it. If cold therapy does not help your pain go away, contact your doctor. Also, you may want to avoid cold therapy if you have certain medical conditions, like diabetes, that affect how well you can sense tis