How Long Should You Use Cold Therapy After Surgery?

How Long Should You Use Cold Therapy After Surgery?

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After having surgery, doctors often recommend that we use cold and heat therapy to promote recovery. In this article, we will discuss how long cold therapy should be used to recover from surgery, its benefits, and how to use it effectively.

What is Cold Therapy?

Cold therapy is simply a method of reducing pain and swelling through a series of cooling techniques. This can be done through ice packs, cold compresses, or specialized cold therapy devices that use different forms of cooling such as gel or circulating water.

Cold therapy works by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the affected area. This helps to reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as numb the area to alleviate pain. Additionally, cold therapy can help to decrease muscle spasms and promote healing by increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery to the affected tissues.

Benefits of cold therapy include:

  • Reduction of pain and swelling.
  • Accelerated healing and recovery.
  • Improved range of motion and joint function.
  • Decreased risk of infection and complications.
  • Reduced need for pain medication

Using Cold Therapy After Surgery

This section will introduce: When to start cold therapy after surgery? How often should I use cold therapy? The duration of cold therapy sessions, types of cold therapy equipment, and precautions for using cold therapy to enable a faster and more effective recovery.

When to start using cold therapy after surgery:

  • In the acute postoperative period, especially within the first 24 hours after surgery, microcirculatory disorders and the reaction to tissue damage secondary to them are not obvious. It reduces bleeding and decreases pain and swelling. At this time, it is recommended that the frequency of icing can be increased intermittently.
  • In the postoperative rehabilitation period after rehabilitation training such as joint mobility exercises, as well as after prolonged standing, walking, holding, and weight-bearing, or if you usually feel swelling, pain, and heat in the joint or limb is obvious, you can apply local cold therapy to the affected area for 15-20 minutes, and care should be taken to protect the wound clean and dry when using it.

How often to use cold therapy:

The ideal cold compress is about 15-20 minutes each time, with an interval of 1-2 hours between each cold compress. After the pain is not too pronounced, cold compresses can be applied every 2-3 hours. If the surgical damage is not very big, the time and number of cold compresses can be less.

Duration of cold therapy sessions:

The duration of each cold therapy session should be based on the surgery in terms of postoperative recovery combined with painful swelling in reference to the doctor’s recommendations. It is important to monitor the skin for any signs of damage, such as redness or numbness, and adjust the duration of cold therapy accordingly.

Types of cold therapy devices:

Ice packs as the most common form of cold therapy are widely known for their convenience and cheapness, but if you want better cold therapy results, there are many cold therapy machines on the market that can provide you with more variety, but mainly each their own benefits and drawbacks, you need to choose the most suitable according to your actual situation.

Precautions to take when using cold therapy:

Proper use of cold therapy can help us recover better.

  • Ice before disinfection: ice on the affected area can control the amount of bleeding, and there is no local swelling or infection. Disinfection treatment of the affected area must be through the choice of topical solution for disinfection and sterilization, ice compress used towel or ice bag should also be disinfected to avoid the danger of local wound infection in the process of treatment.
  • The ice area is not too large: the local wound swelling and pain, you can choose the appropriate ice to relieve the condition, but the ice area is not too large, to avoid large ice caused by health, skin damage, or frostbite hazards.
  • The correct way to use ice: if the phenomenon of local swelling, it is best to choose a professional ice pack for local ice treatment, you can avoid the phenomenon of blood stasis and bleeding significantly increased, each ice pack should be put in the freezer before the ice pack, and then use the correct method of ice treatment.
  • The ice time should not be too long: if there is a muscle strain, ice treatment time is about 10 minutes, ice every once in a while, you can avoid the symptoms of local pain and increased bleeding. If there is a serious injury to the facial skin, each ice compress time is about 10 minutes, can effectively relieve eye fatigue, play a role in shrinking pores, and treatment of disease.
  • In the process of treatment if there is redness and swelling and other irritating phenomena, immediately stop and promptly seek medical attention.

How Long Should You Use Cold Therapy After Surgery?

Cold therapy hair applies to the 3 days after surgery, 3 days after surgery for easy bleeding wounds, with the ice method can make the post-surgical vascular cold contraction, reduce bleeding, conducive to the recovery of the wounds. After that, heat therapy can be used for further recovery.

Acute trauma patients should use it within 48 hours after injury. After using it, attention should be paid to observing the change in local skin color and whether there is any abnormality in sensation, etc. If there is any abnormality, the use should be stopped.


Cold therapy is a simple and effective way to alleviate pain and swelling after surgery and promote healing and recovery. By understanding how to use cold therapy safely and effectively, you can take an active role in your recovery and optimize your outcomes.