Studies have shown that local ice therapy may help to reduce the pain of acute gouty arthritis. Gout is a disease characterized by sudden onsets of intense pain and swelling in the joint especially the big toe. It is caused either by increased production of uric acid (one of the waste products in the body) or failure of the body to eliminate uric acid.
A study was carried out by researchers on 19 people suffering from acute gout, to find out the effect of ice therapy on the severity and duration of gouty arthritis. The participants were divided into two groups; the first group was given local ice therapy and medication. The other group was given the same medications excluding the ice therapy. The participants were kept under observation for a week.
At the end of 1 week the researchers found that participants on local ice therapy showed a significant decrease in pain as compared to those only on medications. The average reduction in pain for patients on ice therapy was 7.75 cm (on a 10 cm visual analog scale) as compared to just 4.42 cm for patients only on medications. Ice therapy also helped in decreasing the swelling (joint circumference) in the ice therapy group.
Although pain improvement was significant, due to the small study group researchers were not able to show statistically significant improvement in all the variables. Therefore, the effect was suggested to be more than simply analgesic.