Effects of whole body cryotherapy and cold water immersion on knee skin temperature

Int J Sports Med. 2014 Jan;35(1):35-40. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1343410. Epub 2013 Jun 18.


This study sought to (a) compare and contrast the effect of 2 commonly used cryotherapy treatments, 4 min of -110 °C whole body cryotherapy and 8 °C cold water immersion, on knee skin temperature and (b) establish whether either protocol was capable of achieving a skin temperature (<13 °C) believed to be required for analgesic purposes. After ethics committee approval and written informed consent was obtained, 10 healthy males (26.5±4.9 yr, 183.5±6.0 cm, 90.7±19.9 kg, 26.8±5.0 kg/m2, 23.0±9.3% body fat; mean±SD) participated in this randomised controlled crossover study. Skin temperature around the patellar region was assessed in both knees via non-contact, infrared thermal imaging and recorded pre-, immediately post-treatment and every 10 min thereafter for 60 min. Compared to baseline, average, minimum and maximum skin temperatures were significantly reduced (p<0.001) immediately post-treatment and at 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 min after both cooling modalities. Average and minimum skin temperatures were lower (p<0.05) immediately after whole body cryotherapy (19.0±0.9 °C) compared to cold water immersion (20.5±0.6 °C). However, from 10 to 60 min post, the average, minimum and maximum skin temperatures were lower (p<0.05) following the cold water treatment. Finally, neither protocol achieved a skin temperature believed to be required to elicit an analgesic effect.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesia / methods*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immersion
  • Knee*
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Skin Temperature*
  • Young Adult