We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the Cold Pressor Test?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The cold pressor test involves dipping a patient’s hand in cold water to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. Patients with certain disorders may respond abnomrally to the test, illustrating the presence of a neurological problem. It also causes pain, which can be used to assess a patient’s pain tolerance as part of a workup. This test is not very invasive and can be performed very quickly in a doctor’s office without any special preparation ahead of time.

Typically, a cold pressor test involves a container filled with ice water. The patient’s hand is dipped in the container for at least a minute. Sometimes a foot may be used instead, or a cold cloth or pack can be placed on the patient’s forehead. In all cases, the cold pressor test stresses the body, causing the sympathetic nervous system to react. This should cause a rise in blood pressure, because the veins will constrict in response to the cold.

Blood pressure rises may be accompanied by changes in heart rate. These are associated with vagus nerve stimulation. During the cold pressor test, a care provider can monitor the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate for the expected changes. If the patient does not respond as expected, this may be a sign of a disorder. For example, the patient’s nerves might not sense pain, or a neurological disorder might mix the signals sent by the sympathetic nervous system, which could be a problem with a real-world source of physical stress.

Patients taking the test can report the onset of pain, which provides important data about sensation and tolerance. It is important to use water chilled to a standard temperature for the cold pressor test so the patient’s results can be accurately compared to those of others. When the pain becomes unbearable, forcing the patient to move the hand, this can add another value to the pain scale. The length of time required for the patient to notice the pain and decide it is too unpleasant can indicate how well the patient tolerates unpleasant stimuli.

Low pain tolerances may be a sign of an underlying neurological problem. The cold pressor test may indicate that something is wrong, and further testing could be necessary for a diagnosis. This could include other neurological function tests involving different sources of stimulation to see how the patient reacts. Treatment options depend on the nature of the condition; some patients may benefit from medication, physical therapy, or surgery to treat nerve disorders.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.