The medically astute ancient Egyptians were the trailblazers of cryotherapy, applying cold compresses to treat inflammation and injuries as early as 2,500 B.C.
Taking cold therapy to the next level, Napoleon Bonaparte’s chief surgeon, Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, used ice and snow as an anesthetic to amputate injured soldiers in the battlefield.
These days, ice may have lost its prominence as an important surgical implement, but it seems we can’t completely get rid of it. Applying ice on soft tissue trauma, vasectomy included, is still widely recommended for post-operative pain and swelling.
If you’ve had genital injuries, or are planning to have a vasectomy, sit down and listen up. We know that cooling your man parts can be tricky, but we’ll show you how to do it in a cinch.
How ice packs can help ease your post-vasectomy discomfort
A vasectomy procedure involves cutting or blocking the tubes that carry sperm to the semen. Small incisions are made on the testicles to access these tubes, called the vas deferens.
Vasectomy ice packs have analgesic and swelling reduction properties that slow down the nerve receptors from sending pain signals to your brain and keep fluids out of the affected site. With this, you’ll be spared from the potential side effects and high costs of medicine.
Icing is an integral component of a widely used self-care method for soft tissue injuries, known by its acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Maintaining proper hygiene and wearing support undergarments should be practiced in conjunction with this approach to hasten vasectomy recovery.
Some cooling products you can use post-vasectomy
Applying ice as soon as you get home from your vasectomy procedure is the first step to your home care treatment. Choose from among these tools to get you started:
- Do-it-yourself ice packs – If you’re looking for inexpensive means to apply cold therapy to those painful and swollen testicles, these are your best bets.
- A pack of frozen peas or mixed vegetables – Just cover the pack with cloth and you’re good to go. It gets the job done, but it might not be able to fit well to your private parts.
- Crushed ice or ice cubes in a bag – These are easy and convenient options for post-vasectomy cooling. Between the two, crushed ice is preferred because it’s soft and molds to your scrotum better. However, crushed ice melts easily, perhaps too early for the cold temperature to reach your superficial tissues.
Household products + water in a bag – You wouldn’t want hard objects to put pressure on your testicles and cause pain. So, instead of using solid and frozen ice cubes, why not make your own soft and squishy gel pack by mixing water with common household products such as liquid detergent, or corn syrup?
To use DIY ice packs immediately after getting home from your vasectomy procedure, make them a day or a few hours prior to your surgery.
- Vasectomy ice packs – If you’re looking to cool your testicles in a convenient and hands-free manner, these are your best bets. Vasectomy ice packs are perfect for the job because they hug the affected area and keep cool for longer compared to DIY ice packs, making them more effective overall.
These medical grade packs are doctor-recommended to relieve pain, swelling and discomfort due to genital injuries, post-surgical trauma, impact sports and infection in a man’s scrotal, genital, groin and pelvic areas. Vasectomy ice packs make professional cooling available in the comfort of your home.
For continuous cooling, we recommend having at least two vasectomy gel packs to use alternately.
Post-vasectomy ice application techniques
- Place a vasectomy ice pack or a pack of frozen vegetables between two pairs of briefs, so that it presses against the dressing. Keep it snug, but not too tight. Cold compression aids in proper blood circulation, helping you heal from vasectomy faster.
- Ideally, you shouldn’t apply ice for more than 20 minutes. However, because the cold temperature would take some time to reach your bandaged testicles, wait for up to 30 minutes before removing your first ice application post-surgery.
- If your undies cannot hold the pack properly, place the cloth-covered pack outside your brief while laying down or sitting reclined on the couch.
- Keep the cold pack on and off for 15-20 minutes repeatedly for the first 24-48 hours following the operation.
You can do the application once every hour or a few times within the day, according to your liking.
Avoid the chances of getting an ice burn by taking heed of the following:
- Do not place the pack on bare skin. Always cover the ice pack with cloth.
- Do not “over-ice” or exceed the 20-minute application period. If you feel numb, maybe it’s time to remove the ice. Icing for less than 10 minutes has very little impact on the underlying tissues, though.
- Allow your tissues to warm up or return to normal temperature for several minutes before re-applying ice.
- Don’t ice before sleeping. To be safe, inform a family member each time you’re applying ice so someone can remove the pack if you are unable to do so.
The CBAN guide to ice application
The 20-minute application time is not something that’s set in stone. You may choose to remove the ice at a lesser time, especially if the affected area already feels numb.
Coldness, burning, aching and numbness (CBAN) describe the four stages that the affected or injured site goes through when ice is applied to it.
If you don’t have a timer on hand, these four sensations can guide you when to stop icing your man parts.
The final sensation, numbness, is a result of decreased nerve conduction. Insensitivity is your body’s way of telling you to remove the vasectomy ice pack, no matter how long you’ve had it on.
It will take up to 10 minutes on average for an individual to go through these four stages.
What is ice burn?
Ice can cause burns, and it happens when it is applied on bare skin for a prolonged period. If it gets in contact with your skin for too long, the water on the cells of your skin freezes, forming into sharp ice crystals that damage the structure of your skin cells.
The condition is further aggravated by a reduction of blood flow and deprivation of oxygen to the affected site.
Skin and tissue injuries caused by an ice burn may be treatable or irreversible, depending on the extent of damage.
Ice burn incidents remain really low. A 2016 research revealed that ice burns only accounted for 0.2 percent of the total burn cases in the U.K. in a span of 11 years.
A slight increase may have occurred following the viral salt and ice challenge, with participants, many of them teenagers, suffering from ice burns in just a few minutes. That’s because adding salt to ice, water and your body heat accelerates the chemical reaction that causes an ice burn.
Post-vasectomy wound care at home
We can’t discuss scrotal cooling without knowing how to keep your incisions protected.
After the surgery, your testicles will be bandaged to protect the small incisions from getting infected. Keep the bandage on for 24-48 hours while you’re icing, but maintain proper hygiene by changing your underwear often, especially if you’re sweaty.
Apart from the bandage, you will also have steri-strips — thin, adhesive bandages used to close shallow wounds or as back up to the stitches on your scrotum.
You’ll be allowed to take a shower two days after your vasectomy and, at this point, you can remove the dressing, but not the steri-strips. Wait for the strips to fall off on their own in about one to two weeks.
Do not rub them off or forcibly remove them as your wound may reopen, inviting in bacteria and infection.
Inexpensive and natural, many people turn to icing to treat various conditions. Apart from being an anesthetic, anecdotal evidence claims that icing can improve performance, fertility, various skin conditions and overall well being.
An ice burn can be menacing to cryotherapy advocates, but cases have remained really low — proof that, with proper application, cold therapy can deliver the copious health benefits man has enjoyed since antiquity.
Have you tried icing to relieve post-operative pain and swelling? Do you have questions about ice pack use? We’re here to help. Don’t be shy, drop us a line here.