Physical therapy treatment to decrease blood flow and fluid

Cold is a physical therapy treatment to decrease blood flow and fluid in the area to which it is applied. Cold can also prevent swelling in a joint or muscle if used right after an injury or exercise. It is done most often done with cold packs or ice massage. When a patient receives a cold pack or ice massage, he or she will feel the following stages:

  • Cold
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Numbness

You may want to discuss using ice cups or slush ice packs at home with a Prairie Spine and Pain Institute Specialist to determine if this is a good therapy for your condition. Please tell our team if you are sensitive to cold or if you have circulatory problems.

Forms of Superficial Heat

An ice massage is used to decrease swelling in a joint or muscle. It is best to massage or roll the ice pack on the injured area right after it is injured to prevent swelling in the joint or muscle.


  • Small paper cups
  • Water
  • Popsicle sticks


  1. Freeze water in small paper cups. You may put a Popsicle stick in the water for a handle, if desired.
  2. Massage over injured area with ice. You do not need to press hard with the ice cup.
  3. The entire procedure should take five to seven minutes. Do not massage for more than seven minutes over small areas or for more than ten minutes over larger areas of the body.
  4. If abnormal swelling, redness, or pain develops, stop the treatment.

How it should feel:

  • Cold is felt when the ice is first applied
  • Soon, you will feel some burning
  • After about five minutes, you will feel an aching feeling, and your skin may become red
  • Continue the ice massage until all of the burning disappears and the area feels numb

The purpose of this cold pack is also to relieve pain and decrease swelling.


  • Large locking freezer bag, such as Ziploc
  • Alcohol
  • Water
  • Two large towels


  1. Mix 3 cups water and 1 cup alcohol in the freezer bag.
  2. Remove as much air as possible and seal bag.
  3. Freeze mixture in freezer overnight, or until ready to use.
  4. Place a towel between body part and pack to allow your skin to adjust to the cold gradually.
  5. Conform cold pack to shape of the affected area and cover with an additional towel.


  • Do not use pack longer than 15 minutes
  • Do not use cold pack if you have an undiagnosed or contagious skin disease
  • Do not use if you are hypersensitive to cold
  • If the area to be treated has been frostbitten at any time, use extreme caution or do not use at all
  • Inform your healthcare provider immediately of any unexpected reaction