In what circumstances is it desirable (or not) to relieve swelling/inflamation by topical cooling

I think I’ve always been under the impression that chilling a body part that is inflamed/swollen due to infection was not necessarily a good thing, as it would inhibit circulation and thus delay healing, but I’ve recently been given reason to doubt this.

So: In what circumstances, medically, is it considered desirable to either let a swelling or inflammation ‘run its course’, or at least not to relieve it with ice packs, etc?

In what circumstances is the opposite true? - i.e. when is it considered highly important to treat a swelling or inflammation by topical cooling?

No boner jokes, please - this is GQ.

Nothing? OK. If you’ve got a boner joke and a factual answer, that’s OK…

Medically speaking, I believe that it is generally considered inadvisable to treat swelling due to frostbite injury with ice packs.

well once my 10 incher …

an infection can be slowed by cold. you might want to use cold on an infected area until treatment was in place for it; e.g. like waiting for the body be loaded with antibiotics.

also if swelling were to cut off circulation or a nerve you would want to chill to slow the response.



Cooling should be used to treat an acute burn. This will limit thermal damage, reduce pain, and make it heal quicker than it would without cooling. Keep it cool for as long as possible. Avoid ice, shoot for 50-55 degree (F) water on the burned area and keep it up for 15-30 or so minutes. Longer cooling may reduce pain, but doesn’t seem to benefit the injury otherwise.

If treating more than 10% of the body with such therapy, beware the risk of inducing hypothermia.

For burns covering large areas of the body, especially if blistered or worse, consult your local emergency room.

Otherwise it doesn’t really matter much whether you use mild heat or cold in most other non-burn circumstances, including infections. Cooling an infected area will reduce your body’s ability to deliver infection-fighting cells and chemicals.

Conventional medical wisdom used to advocate cooling for acute injuries for the first 24-48 hours, then change to heat. But recent studies indicate it probably doesn’t make any difference in the long run and one should use the (reasonable) temperature that makes you feel better.

Tendinitis responds well to ice packs.