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Cryotherapy uses ice, compresses, cold towels, and ice massage to reduce the temperature of tissues directly on or below the skin's surface. Cold temperatures constricts blood vessels, help relax muscle spasms, and numbs painful areas. Nerve transmission is reduced when cold temperatures are used and provides temporary relief of painful symptoms.

The use cold applications is used most often in acute injuries or chronic conditions that recur to reduce and prevent swelling. During the initial stages of an injury, local cooling should be applied multiple times per day.