Nowadays, the use of ice is very frequent to stop the inflammatory processes produced by a twist, a blow or a trauma of any type; But we often do not know what effects it will have on the injury, what precautions we have to take into account or whether it really is necessary to apply cold in all cases.


In this post we will try to make clear some concepts to be able to make better use of this technique.


What is and what is the use of cold for therapeutic purposes?


The application of cold as a therapeutic agent is known as cryotherapy and consists of applying to the body any substance that lowers the temperature of the tissues.


Relieve pain with cold gel packs


But what effects has the application of cold in the body


1. Decrease in temperature in tissues


The decrease in temperature occurs at both the superficial and the deep levels. In deeper tissues, the temperature begins to drop a few minutes after application begins. When we stop applying cold there is still a time during which the temperature of the deep tissues continues to decrease. Always the rest time between each application must be at least twice the application time.


2. Effect on circulation


The blood flow decreases with the application of cold by decreasing the diameter of the capillaries, this is known as vasoconstriction. This effect is fundamental, without it many of the following effects would not occur.


3. Changes in the color of the skin


There are two factors that explain the reddening of the skin when applying ice:


The cold diminishes more the return of the blood by the veins that the entrance of blood by the arteries, that is to say: in the arteries is where more blood accumulates.


Decreased metabolism and exchange of blood in vessels and tissues, thereby leaving the red blood cells at the tissue level.


4. Decreased metabolism.


As a consequence of the decrease in temperature, both the blood flow and the oxygen demand of the cells in that area decrease. If we apply cold to a damaged tissue that does not receive a good supply of oxygen, there is less chance that the cells will die.


5. Anti-inflammatory effect


The decrease of the blood supply in turn decreases the segregation of the substances that generate the inflammation.


In addition, decreasing blood flow counteracts the increase in the same flow produced by the inflammatory reaction itself; Preventing liquid from flowing out of the cells and causing edema.


6. Effect of cold on burns


Leaving cold water in a burn decreases pain, local fluid loss, tissue damage, edema and decreased blood volume in the first 48 hours. It decreases therefore the appearance of the blisters and the fever on the area.


7. Antibiotic effect


It is beneficial in the healing of infected wounds, since when applying cold decreases the development of bacteria, makes them more vulnerable to the immune system and to antibiotics.


8. Muscle, tissue and joint effects


Cold decreases the elasticity of connective tissue and muscles. That is why we must be very careful and not use cold before intense physical activity, because if we do the tissues lose their flexibility and we can cause a tear. Joint stiffness is due to the increased viscosity of the synovial fluid. This effect on the tissues and joints produces a decrease in pain, although the mechanisms that produce it are not well understood.


Cold Application Techniques


Cold-packs like these are gel packs that are put into the freezer and applied as a form of immediate attention to a damage.


Remember that cold should be applied immediately following the production of the injury, whenever possible.


You can use bags of crushed ice, which is either frozen water, or frozen gel bags. They cool more and keep the cold longer.


Frozen gel packs can cause burns if applied directly as their temperature can be below zero degrees. These packages should be insulated with a thin cloth, which how you see is incorporated in the pack.


When we make applications with frozen water does not produce burns as long as the application time is between 30-45 minutes.


These cold gel bags can also be used for the treatment of bruises, bumps, sprains, headache, fever or as the first treatment for pulling on legs and arms.


How in all there is to be precautions when applying cold


Cryotherapy should not be applied to an area for more than one hour at a time, as burns may occur.


Frozen gel packs should always be protected by a cloth.


Frozen gel packs should never be applied below compressive dressings.

Do not apply cold in patients who have paralysis of the area or have coronary diseases.

Care must be taken with the activity performed by the patient after the application, since a proper pre-heating must be performed to avoid injury.

Keep in mind that the application of the cold is uniform and that the application of cold does not cause burns.

It is contraindicated in any type of Raynaud Syndrome, another type of vasoelasticity or vasospasm, since these pathologies hinder the circulation.

It is contraindicated in people with: Hypersensitivity or allergy to cold. Heart problems. Alterations of local circulation.