Cryotherapy is used for acute injuries, or the first 48 to 72 hours following an injury or trauma. Cryotherapy in chiropractic can be highly effective for managing injuries such as whiplash after a car accident, bulging or herniated disks in the spine, nerve injuries such as sciatica or pinched nerves, headaches and migraines, back and neck pain after an acute injury, tendinitis from sports injuries or work related medical conditions. Using ice after an injury minimizes swelling and limits the amount of inflammatory chemicals released by the body that may cause the injury to worsen, take longer to heal or never heal completely at all.
- Cryotherapy will reduce pain, inflammation and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
- For the first 48 hours after an injury, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs.
- After 48 to 72 hours it may be appropriate , if swelling is gone, apply heat and begin gentle exercises with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between heat and cold treatments.
Cryotherapy is excellent at reducing the inflammatory response and pain. A good method is applying ice for 20 minutes each hour. Other recommendations are an alternation of ice and no-ice for 15–20 minutes each, for a 24–48 hour period. To prevent localized ischemia or frostbite to the skin, it is recommended that the ice be placed within a towel or other insulating material before wrapping around the area.
Exceeding the recommended time for ice application may be detrimental, as it has been shown to delay healing. To summarize:
Cryotherapy or ice is a better choice with an acute injury. Ice to the area is important but this also needs to be done with some caution. The simplest ice pack is ice cubes placed in a plastic bag. While effective, you can cause a frostbite injury if you leave the pack on for too long. When you first ice the area, you will go through several phases before some pain relief is achieved. At first the pack will feel cold. The next phase is a burning sensation and the ice will almost feel hot. This is followed by an aching or throbbing sensation. Just before the area is numbed, a very sharp pain will be experienced followed by the relief you desire. This can take from five to ten minutes to go through all of the phases. Once numbness is achieved, the pack should be removed. You should most definitely not fall asleep while the pack is on.
If this simple procedure does not solve the problem it’s best to get your spine checked by a doctor of chiropractic.