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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 conditions can be treated with cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy can be used to treat conditions that involve irritation of an isolated nerve. In general, such conditions include benign nerve growths (neuromas) and pinched nerves (nerve entrapments). 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 unusual sensations, such as numbness or tingling, or with redness and irritation of the skin. These effects are generally temporary.
Where is cryotherapy performed?
Cryotherapy procedures are usually performed in the doctor's office.
Medically reviewed by Joseph Carcione, DO; American board of Psychiatry and Neurology