What is cryotherapy and how does it work?
- Cryotherapy is a pain treatment that uses a method of localized freezing temperatures to deaden an irritated nerve.
- Cryotherapy is also used as a method of treating localized areas of some cancers (called cryosurgery), such as prostate cancer and to treat abnormal skin cells by dermatologists. In this article we only discuss its use in nerve conditions.
- In cryotherapy, a probe is inserted into the tissue next to the affected nerve.
- The temperature of the probe drops to then effectively freeze the nerve.
- The freezing inactivates the nerve and, as a result, painful nerve irritation is relieved. Cryotherapy is a relatively safe and effective means of treating localized nerve irritation.
What is cryotherapy used for?
Specific examples include
- nerve irritation between the ribs (intercostal neuralgia),
- cluneal nerve entrapment,
- ilioinguinal neuroma,
- hypogastric neuromas,
- lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment, and
- interdigital neuromas.
Many forms of nerve entrapment can often be treated with cryotherapy.
What are the side effects of cryotherapy?
While cryotherapy can reduce unwanted nerve irritation, it sometimes can leave the tissue affected with side effects, such as
- numbness or tingling,
- redness and irritation of the skin,
- pain (during the procedure and 24 hours after),
- infection (with pus or oozing),
- cold panniculitis, and
- change in vitals (increase in blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and respiratory rate).
These effects are generally temporary.
Where is cryotherapy performed?
Cryotherapy procedures are usually performed in the doctor's office.
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