Cold therapy, sometimes called cryotherapy, can be applied in several ways. Usually it depends on the body part involved. A bag of crushed ice wrapped in a towel is easily applied to the knee or ankle. A commercially made cold pack works better for the back or neck.
Ice massage is an easy way to cool a small area of tissue, like an injured ankle ligament. Freeze water in a paper cup. Tear the top off the cup, exposing the ice. Hold the cup to protect your fingers from the cold while applying the ice to your ankle in a circular motion. This cools the area without causing frostbite.
Studies show that cold therapy cools the skin and upper layer of tissue quickly--within eight minutes. It usually takes 12 to 15 minutes of cold therapy to decrease pain and muscle spasms. More than 30 minutes of cold therapy can cause frostbite and nerve damage. The recommended time for cold therapy is around 15 to 20 minutes.