Pain on Ice: The Advantages of Cold Therapy

When treating chronic or situational pain, there are plenty of tactics for approach.  The most prominent and usually effective method is the strategic placement of heat or cold to the problem area.

Cold therapy entails using ice or other sources of cold to manage pain anywhere on the body. Sounds simple, right? Well it is and the simplicity is the main reason for its prominence. So, why does cold therapy work and how else can you use it while managing pain?

Pain management is full of tools for every situation. Let us help keep your pain cool.

On Ice

The proper application of ice to an injured area will decrease swelling, tissue damage, muscle damage and pain. How this works is a simple matter of how your body reacts to targeted cold.

When applied to the body, the cold will decrease the tissue’s temperature and constrict blood vessels in that area. The diminished blood flow then reduces swelling. After about 20 minutes of constant contact, the blood vessels slowly open back up. The controlled dilation decreases pain and discomfort and facilitates faster healing.

Take a Dunk

Sure, a handy ice pack can alleviate pain after a home accident or a more strenuous than usual run, but what about highly active people looking to treat and prevent chronic pain?

You’ve probably seen it before; your favorite athlete taking an extended dunk in a tub full of ice. Sound like fun? While it may seem daring, and a little uncomfortable, ice baths can be beneficial.

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The benefit for athletes is that a good 20-minute soak prevents next-day soreness after strenuous actions and game activities. It’s the same concept of applying ice to constrict and slowly dilate blood vessels in order to let muscles recover better.

The ice bath, however, covers your entire body instead of a targeted muscle. It should be noted that ice baths should be done only with the supervision of an athletic trainer. An improper ice bath can lead to an increased heart rate or shock if it’s too cold.


Whether using icepacks or an ice bath, be careful during cold therapy. Though easy to control, extended cold exposure can numb and damage tissue if left too long. Avoid using the cold when dealing with ailments like rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s Syndrome, paralysis or on areas with already impaired sensation.

It is also important to note that cold therapy and ice should only be used after workouts rather than before. Though the cold is extremely useful in post-workout treatments, using it before can actually increase chances of injury by not allowing the proper blood flow needed during exercise.

The Treatment You Need

Managing pain is a process that requires many different approaches. At Total Pain Care, we understand this and work to find the way that provides the best comfort possible. Whether you’re an athlete or are suffering from a chronic condition, our team will do its best to help you. If you would like to learn more, please contact us online or give us a call at 973.754.2499.

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  1. Ronald Amaya, PA-C is a Physician Assistant. He attended Weill Cornell Medical College and received his physician assistant degree in NYC. He has 18 years of experience in cardiothoracic surgery and over 8 years in pain management. Dr. Amaya is NCCPA board-certified in medicine and surgery.

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  2. Paulette Scott, MD is a pain management specialist. Dr. Scott is also the pain management representative at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, Boston. She fulfilled her physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and completed her fellowship in pain management at Harvard Square Clinic. Dr. Scott is board-certified in physical medicine, rehabilitation, and pain management.

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  3. Andrew D. Bunn, MD is a pain management specialist. Dr. Bunn also serves as the co-director of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, as well as the Program Director for Lahey Hospital & Medical Center and Newborn Services | MassGeneral Hospital for Children. After earning his medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine, he completed his anesthesia residency at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania where he also completed his fellowship in pain management. He is board-certified in both anesthesiology and pain management.

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  4. David D. Ford, MD is the Director of Pain Management. Dr. Ford earned a medical degree and completed his residencies in both surgery and anesthesiology. He joined the staff of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates Watertown in 1990. He is board-certified in both anesthesiology and pain management. Dr. Ford specializes in painful disorders of the spine and sports-related injuries. He has initiated the use of advanced interventional techniques for the successful treatment of these and other conditions.

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