Cryotherapy is the therapeutic use of locally applied
coolants to affect various physiological processes
through the cooling of soft tissues. Cooling occurs
when heat is removed or lost from an object through
conduction of heat from one mass to another, or
through evaporation. Conduction occurs when heat
is transferred from a warm body to a colder body by
direct contact between their surface molecules. The
slow moving molecules of the cold body speed up by
absorbing energy from the faster moving molecules
of the warm body, thereby becoming warmer, while,
conversely, the faster moving molecules of the warm
body slow down as they lose energy and become
cooler. Conduction occurs when a cool mass (like
ice) is applied continuously to the skin, or when a
body part is immersed in cold water. As the body or
body part cools, the ice or cold water heats up.
Cryotherapy has historically been used to
provide pain relief, reduce fever, slow the damage of
thermal burns, control bleeding, and prevent or
reduce edema caused by soft tissue trauma.
Cryotherapy has also been shown to be useful for
the reduction of extrafusal and intrafusal muscle
spasm, neuromuscular hypertonicity, and spasticity.
Cryotherapy may additionally be used to elevate the
pain threshold and slow destructive enzyme action
that occurs in some joint diseases.

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