Comparing the antiswelling and analgesic effects of three different ice pack therapy durations: a randomized controlled trial on cases with soft tissue injuries

J Nurs Res. 2013 Sep;21(3):186-94. doi: 10.1097/jnr.0b013e3182a0af12.


Background: Ice pack therapy has been widely used in treatment for soft tissue injuries. However, no studies have yet explored the most appropriate and effective duration for ice therapy with ice packs.

Purpose: This study explored the antiswelling and analgesic effects of different ice pack therapy durations on soft tissue injuries as well as patient discomfort.

Methods: An experimental design including pretest and three posttests with three groups was used in this study. Using convenience sampling and randomized block assignment, 99 participants with soft tissue injuries from the emergency department of a medical center in southern Taiwan were included in this study. With 33 participants in each group, three groups with ice pack therapy for 10, 20, and 30 minutes were indicated to compare skin temperature, swelling, and pain differences in ice-treated areas as well as participant discomfort.

Results: This study found no significant differences in the effect of different ice pack therapy durations among the three groups. However, this study identified significant differences between pretest and each posttest in terms of changes in skin temperature, pain, and numbness and rash-related discomfort in each group.

Conclusion/implications for practice: Research results found that the three different ice pack therapy durations could lower skin temperature and reduce partial pain. The different ice pack therapy durations would cause similar discomfort incidence rates in the three groups. Ice pack therapy for 10 minutes could reduce partial swelling and pain effectively. Accordingly, we suggest that 10 minutes is the optimal ice pack therapy duration for persons with soft tissue injuries. However, the ice pack therapy duration should be adjusted according to individual needs and situation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • Edema / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ice*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / therapy*


  • Ice