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The Cold, Hard Facts of Cryotherapy in Orthopedics.


Cryotherapy is the use of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of ice to facilitate healing. Cryotherapy mediates these salutatory effects by reducing blood flow to the site of injury, down-regulating the production of inflammatory and pain-inducing prostaglandins, and diminishing the conductive ability of nerve endings. It is commonly used postoperatively in orthopedics to decrease analgesic requirements and blood loss as well as to increase range of motion, despite limited literature on its ability to produce such therapeutic effects in clinical practice. This article examines the available literature and the scientific evidence for the use and efficacy of cryotherapy in post-surgical orthopedic patients. It also reviews the potential pitfalls associated with improper use. Overall, this review seeks to provide insight into when, or whether, cryotherapy is appropriate for orthopedic patients during surgical recovery.