Cryotherapy is a particular care technique that makes use of ice to relieve physical pain. Pain is reduced by the likely reduction in inflammation and a change in blood circulation locally.

This method has been developed thanks to the intuition of a Japanese doctor in 1978 in order to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It was then resumed and completed in Europe and can be of help in the therapeutic course of patients suffering from rheumatic diseases.


Types of cryotherapy

Cryotherapy can be systemic or local. Systemic cryotherapy involves exposure of the body to extremely cold temperatures (about -130 degrees) for a maximum of three minutes. The patient faces the cold to the naked body, apart from the protection of the genital area and a mask. Patients may enter into special rooms (such as saunas) or in cabins, similar to large pipes where only the head remains outside. Cryotherapy can also be local, applied only to the painful areas of the body.

As explained by Professor Carlo Selmi, head of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at Humanitas: “Local cryotherapy may prove effective in patients suffering from arthritis. The cold performs an analgesic action relieving joint pain by a change in the influx of blood and acting on local inflammation”.



The patient may benefit from this technique in terms of pain relief even if the duration is widely variable and you can not predict who will most benefit. Professor Selmi emphasizes that: “There is not a lot of data to support efficacy of cryotherapy and in particular on the systemic one, it is difficult to make accurate and valid scientific studies on this therapeutic tool. Cryotherapy has been used in cases of rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis and osteoarthritis, but the results are still not clear and not as strong as with other anti-inflammatory approaches.

However, it is worth pointing out that the ice is well tolerated by patients, safe and has a negligible cost. Furthermore, it may also be used in the treatment of certain rheumatic diseases to partially replace the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as cortisone”.