February 20, 2017
Why Does Cold and Compression Work for Injury?

 By Dr. Ryan Geringer

Most people have heard of the RICE method for treating injuries and sprains: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.  Do you know the reasons why ice and compression are so integral to the healing process?  There are a few different ways using ice (cryotherapy) and compression help.  One is that when the cold is applied soon after the initial injury, it constricts blood vessels which leads to less swelling and bruising.[1]  Swelling is the body’s natural response to damage such as a sprain, but ironically, it hinders the healing process by suffocating cells with fluid.  By applying ice and compression, your body’s fluids remain contained in the systems as it should be.


Cryotherapy also reduces the damage done to injured cells by slowing down their oxygen consumption.  This allows the cells to recoup and ultimately heal themselves faster. [1]  Exposure to cold also reduces muscle spasms which are common, uncontrollable and painful after an injury. [1]  This benefit can be seen even during the rehabilitation process, weeks after the injury took place.  In fact, the cold/compression combo can go so far as increase a person’s range of motion after an injury. [2] 


Finally, as many of you know, the application of ice or a frozen gel pack greatly reduces the feeling of pain for the patient.  How many of us have used cold packs for headaches, sore muscles, arthritis pain and even toothaches?  The science behind it is that coldness directly travels up the nerve fibers, overriding and displacing the brain’s sensation of pain with the sensation of cold.  In one meta-analysis, researchers found that with joint injuries, applying both cold and compression together reduces pain and swelling better than only applying ice or only providing compression.[3]  Another study found that compression and cryotherapy were potent enough to reduce the amount of pain killers patients needed after surgery. [2] The key is to use them together.


For all of these reasons, we offer what we call the Freeze Sleeve.  The great thing is that it puts these two powerful therapies together, killing two birds with one stone.  It compresses the injury with cold gel, providing the injured person pain relief, helping cells to heal, decreasing counterproductive swelling and bruising and reducing painful muscle spasms.  Better yet, the gel is flexible and the compression material is Lycra which allow you to move while receiving the benefits of cryotherapy.  Simply slip on the Freeze Sleeve over the injured joint and you’ll experience the perfect level of compression and cold relief.  You can wear it at rest, or even better, you can wear it during your regular activities instead of sitting on the couch with a dripping bag of ice.  Next time you or someone you know gets a sprain or injury, remember to just take out your Freeze Sleeve and let the healing begin.


  • This post is designed for educational purposes only and should not be used a diagnosis or treatment recommendation. Before beginning any treatment it is important to speak with your physician.



[1] http://www.ncor.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Ice-in-patient-management.pdf

[2] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877056814000413

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27462522

Joe McClung

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