Cryotherapy is the application of cold temperatures to part or all of the body. The term encompasses a broad variety of practices.

There are several types cryotherapy. For example, cryotherapy is often used in sports medicine through the application of ice packs to sore muscles or bruised areas. Cryosurgery is the use of targeted application of cold temperatures to remove diseased tissues such as warts and a variety of cancers. Therapeutic hypothermia is submerging the body in cold temperatures as a means of preventing damage to heart and brain tissue after a heart attack or oxygen deprivation. Finally, cryogenic chamber therapy involves spending two or three minutes in a very cold chamber intended to help for pain from rheumatic complaints.

People use this for...

Cryotherapy has been used for warts, hemorrhoids, skin lesions, a variety of cancers, injuries, fibromyalgia, sprained ankles, and prostate cancer.

Pregnancy And Lactation: There is insufficient reliable evidence about the safety of cryotherapy in pregnancy and lactation. Avoid use.


Myocardial infarction. Preliminary clinical research suggests that administrating therapeutic hypothermia to comatose hospitalized patients recovering from myocardial infarction caused by ventricular fibrillation may improve recovery outcomes.

More evidence is needed to rate cryotherapy for this use.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Dosing & administration

    Adverse effects

    General: Adverse effects vary based on the type of cryotherapy utilized, but generally involve a localized skin reaction to cold such as a blister or redness.

    Interactions with pharmaceuticals

    None known.

    Interactions with herbs & supplements

    None known.

    Interactions with foods

    None known.

    Interactions with lab tests

    Interactions with diseases

    BROKEN, DAMAGED SKIN: Avoid administering to those with infectious skin diseases, fragile skin, rashes, or open wounds. Cryotherapy may worsen broken or damaged skin.

    RAYNAUD'S DISEASE: Avoid administering to patients with Raynaud's disease as cryotherapy may make the symptoms worse.

    Mechanism of action

    Cryotherapy is commonly used in sports medicine by the application of cold to the area of injury. Theoretically, the cooling of the affected area slows the release of chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling. Additionally, the analgesic effects of cold temperature are thought to be due to the reduced ability of nerve endings to conduct pain signals.

    Cryosurgery can be used for removing benign or malignant lesions, and its action has three phases: heat transfer, cell injury, and inflammation. Heat is transferred when the cells are frozen. Cell injury occurs during the thawing of the cell. Practitioners of cryosurgery believe that rapid freezing and slow thawing maximize tissue damage. The last response to cryosurgery is inflammation, which is usually observed as erythema, edema, and possibly blister formation. These processes all theoretically aid in the removal of unwanted lesions.

    In therapeutic hypothermia the patient recovering from a heart attack due is cooled, because theoretically this may minimize damage to brain tissue and improve functional recovery. has licensed professional monographs from TRC Healthcare. Full monographs are available to Pro practitioner accounts.
    This monograph was last reviewed on 23/04/2015 16:19:42 and last updated on 23/04/2015 00:26:32. Monographs are reviewed and/or updated multiple times per month and at least once per year.
    Natural Medicines disclaims any responsibility related to medical consequences of using any medical product. Effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this monograph is accurate at the time it was published. Consumers and medical professionals who consult this monograph are cautioned that any medical or product related decision is the sole responsibility of the consumer and/or the health care professional. A legal License Agreement sets limitations on downloading, storing, or printing content from this Database. No reproduction of this monograph or any content from this Database is permitted without written permission from the publisher. It is unlawful to download, store, or distribute content from this site.