Cryotherapy vs. Thermotherapy: Which is Better for You?

Cryotherapy vs. thermotherapy: which is better for you?

Chiropractic Raleigh NC Five Things To Know About Your Health

Some of the most traditional treatments for certain injuries involve putting an ice pack or a warm compress on them. Heat and cold can both do wonders for reducing pain and inflammation, so it can be difficult discerning which treatment to use.

After experiencing trauma or injury, chiropractors often recommend that you do either cryotherapy or thermotherapy. Both have their pros and cons, and which treatment you should rely on depends on your specific condition.

Let's dive deeper into these two treatments and see whether one is any better than the other.


Cryotherapy has really taken off in the past couple of years. We've seen numerous articles written about it, and an abundance of YouTube videos dedicated to it. It's easy to conclude that cryotherapy is just a popular trend, but it's an effective treatment. It's used for treating sciatica, arthritis, back pain, herniated discs, and more.

It involves exposing your body, or part of your body, to temperatures of around -200°F (-129°C) for just a few minutes. Such low temperatures are most commonly achieved with the use of liquid nitrogen.

Types of cryotherapy include

  • Ice packs
  • Ice baths
  • Ice massage
  • Cryotherapy chambers (whole-body cryotherapy), and more.
  • Most clinicians will advise against whole-body cryotherapy unless it's truly necessary. Local cryotherapy is often more than enough to achieve the desired results.


Thermotherapy is on the other end of the spectrum. While cryotherapy will expose you to low temperatures, thermotherapy will expose you to high temperatures.

Of course, the temperatures won't be nearly as extreme as they are in cryotherapy. Thermotherapy doesn't go above 113°F (45°C). Higher temperatures can be detrimental and can cause burns and irritations, so they're never applied in thermotherapy.

There are various types of thermotherapy

  • Saunas
  • Warm compressions
  • Infrared lamps
  • Hot water baths
  • Paraffin baths
  • Ultrasound therapy, and more.
  • A chiropractor will recommend thermotherapy for chronic pain, joint stiffness, tense muscles, etc.

A cryotherapy session is very short, lasting up to 3 minutes. But a thermotherapy session can often last over an hour, depending on your specific condition and needs.

Pros and Cons of Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy has countless benefits but can come with a few side-effects as well. Before you opt for this treatment, you should familiarize yourself with all its pros and cons.


Cryotherapy aims to reduce blood flow to injured areas. By narrowing the blood vessels and reducing the blood flow, the inflammation you're experiencing can also be reduced.

An added benefit is that the cold can have a numbing effect, successfully eliminating pain and soreness. That's why anesthesia is often not even necessary for cryosurgery.

Some of the most significant benefits of cryotherapy include

  • Reducing muscle pain
  • Helping with migraines
  • Eliminating eczema
  • Fighting cancer
  • Improving bodily functions in patients with multiple sclerosis.
  • Cryotherapy is commonly used by athletes precisely because of its effect on sore muscles. After cryotherapy, athletes will feel more energized and be able to push their limits further.

Cryotherapy can also boost your metabolism and help you burn calories faster, making it ideal for those on a weight-loss plan. Your body needs to work harder to stay warm during this therapy, so more energy is spent - resulting in more calories burned.


Cryotherapy can have some side-effects that might not be very pleasant. Before you can even start the treatment, your chiropractor will ask some health-related questions. You shouldn't try cryotherapy if you have a history of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • If you're pregnant.
  • It's of utmost importance to talk with your doctor or chiropractor before you try cryotherapy. They will help you design the right therapy that will produce the right results.

If your doctors do recommend cryotherapy, it's critical that you go to a certified practitioner for it. If your cryotherapist doesn't know what they're doing exactly, they can:

  • Worsen your condition
  • Cause your blood pressure to spike up uncontrollably
  • Cause frostbite
  • Cause you significant discomfort
  • Always talk to your doctors before cryotherapy, and should you feel uncomfortable stop with the therapy immediately.

Pros and Cons of Thermotherapy

Thermotherapy comes with its own set of pros and cons. Let's take a look.


Thermotherapy affects your body in a completely different way to cryotherapy. Whereas cryotherapy will reduce blood flow, thermotherapy will increase it.

Increasing the blood flow will allow for more oxygen and nutrients to pass through the blood vessels. That will help with healing damaged tissue and improving your mobility.

Heat therapy can penetrate deep within the skin, and as a result, can help with joint stiffness and muscle tension.

The main benefits of thermotherapy include

  • Increasing blood flow
  • Relaxing muscles
  • Preventing pain and stiffness
  • Improving mobility
  • Boosting circulation
  • Cryotherapy is often used for dealing with new injuries and is best applied within the first 72 hours.
  • Thermotherapy, on the other hand, is better applied later, once the injury has already started to heal.


Since thermotherapy increases blood flow and promotes circulation, it can have negative side-effects. Especially if applied to new injuries or when you're suffering from inflammation.

Your body's natural reaction to new injuries is to send white blood cells to heal it. Promoting stronger blood flow and sending more blood to injured areas can cause greater swelling and irritation.

Thermotherapy should always be supervised by a certified practitioner. Otherwise, you risk

  • Worsening your condition
  • Incurring burns
  • Causing inflammation
  • Promoting swelling.
  • Thermotherapy is best applied to older injuries that are still causing pain. Consult with your doctor to find out whether thermotherapy will improve or worsen your condition.

In Summary

Both cryotherapy and thermotherapy can be effective in reducing pain and helping you fight certain conditions.

Sometimes, cryotherapy and thermotherapy are used together to achieve the best results. Cryotherapy can help in the first stages, while thermotherapy can help in the final stages of fighting pain and injury.

Your chiropractor will know best which therapy will be the right choice for you. So, always consult with medical professionals before attempting either of these therapies.

  • We accept most insurance, including Blue Cross Blue Shield State Health Plan
  • Online scheduling
  • 24/7 after-hour answering service
  • Friendly, prompt customer service
  • Board certified expert Chiropractor
  • Tailor-made care plans to relieve your aches and pains as quickly as possible


9:00am - 6:00pm

9:00am - 6:00pm

9:00am - 6:00pm

9:00am - 6:00pm

10:00am - 4:00pm

Saturday & Sunday

Carolina ChiroCare and Rehab

1207 Ridge Rd
Raleigh, NC 27607

(919) 351-8368
Patient Choice Icon
Talk of the Town Icon