Cold Pressor

Learn about the Cold Pressor Test, a healthcare procedure to assess pain tolerance and cardiovascular responses. Explore its significance today.

By Bernard Ramirez on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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What is a Cold Pressor Test?

The Cold Pressor Test (CPT) is a well-established medical procedure used to assess an individual's pain tolerance and the body's cardiovascular responses to stress. It is a simple yet effective method involving immersing a person's hand or foot in ice-cold water for a predetermined period, typically one to five minutes. During this time, the individual is asked to tolerate the cold sensation as long as possible.

The primary objective of the Cold Pressor Test is to induce a controlled stress response in the body, primarily by activating the sympathetic nervous system. This results in a temporary increase in blood pressure and heart rate as the body attempts to cope with the cold stimulus. The test measures various physiological parameters, including blood pressure, heart rate, and peripheral vascular resistance.

Medical professionals use the Cold Pressor Test for several purposes:

  • Pain Tolerance Assessment: It helps determine an individual's pain threshold and how they react to acute pain stimuli. This information can be valuable in diagnosing and managing pain-related conditions.
  • Cardiovascular Function Evaluation: The test provides insights into how the cardiovascular system responds to stress, helping diagnose hypertension and autonomic dysfunction.
  • Research Tool: Researchers use the Cold Pressor Test to investigate pain perception, stress responses, and their correlation with various medical conditions.

It's important to note that the Cold Pressor Test should only be conducted by trained professionals in a controlled clinical or research setting, as potential risks are involved, especially for individuals with certain medical conditions. These risks include a significant increase in blood pressure, fainting, or exacerbating underlying cardiovascular issues.

The Cold Pressor Test is a valuable tool in healthcare for assessing pain tolerance and understanding the body's cardiovascular responses to stress. When conducted under the appropriate conditions and by qualified personnel, it can provide valuable insights into pain management and cardiovascular health.

Printable Cold Pressor Test

Download this Cold Pressor Test to assess the patient’s pain tolerance and the body's cardiovascular responses to stress.

How does it work?

The Cold Pressor Test (CPT) is a medical procedure designed to assess an individual's pain tolerance and monitor cardiovascular responses. The procedure involves several key steps, and the associated form helps healthcare practitioners record and analyze the data effectively.

Patient Preparation

Before administering the CPT, healthcare practitioners clearly explain the procedure to the patient. Informed consent is obtained, ensuring that the patient understands what to expect. The patient is typically seated comfortably.

Test Parameters

The CPT form includes crucial parameters such as the water temperature and the predetermined test duration. These parameters are standardized to ensure consistency in test administration. Commonly, the water temperature is set at 0°C, and the duration is set for 2 minutes.

Test Procedure

The practitioner prepares a container with ice-cold water at the specified temperature. The patient is then instructed to immerse a designated body part, often the hand, up to a certain point (e.g., the wrist) in the cold water. A timer is started to monitor the duration of immersion.


Throughout the test, practitioners closely monitor the patient's vital signs at regular intervals, including blood pressure and heart rate. Patients are also encouraged to communicate any sensations of pain, discomfort, or unusual symptoms they may experience during the test.

Test Termination Criteria

The CPT continues until specific termination criteria are met, such as the completion of the predetermined duration, the patient's request to stop, the onset of intolerable pain, or significant changes in vital signs.

Post-Test Care

After the test, the practitioner gently dries the patient's immersed body part and monitors the patient for any adverse effects or delayed reactions. Post-test care instructions advise the patient to avoid exposing the immersed body part to extreme temperatures for a brief period.

Cold Pressor Test Example (sample)

The Cold Pressor Test PDF template is a standardized document healthcare practitioners use to administer and record the Cold Pressor Test (CPT), a procedure for assessing pain tolerance and cardiovascular responses. This comprehensive form includes essential fields for patient information, test parameters (such as water temperature and duration), and monitoring data (blood pressure, heart rate, and symptoms). 

It also outlines test termination criteria, post-test care instructions, and a section for practitioners to document results and conclusions. The Cold Pressor Test PDF template ensures systematic and consistent data collection, facilitating accurate assessments and research studies related to pain perception and cardiovascular health.

Download this Cold Pressor Test Example: 

Cold Pressor Test Example (sample)

When Would you use this Test?

The Cold Pressor Test (CPT) is a valuable tool primarily used in medicine, psychology, and research to assess pain tolerance and cardiovascular responses. It has various applications across different domains, making it an essential resource for practitioners.

Clinical Settings:

In clinical healthcare settings, practitioners utilize the Cold Pressor Test to evaluate a patient's pain tolerance and the body's cardiovascular responses. It can be beneficial when assessing individuals with chronic pain conditions, post-surgical patients, or those with cardiovascular diseases. 

By understanding a patient's pain threshold, clinicians can tailor pain management strategies and treatment plans accordingly. Moreover, monitoring cardiovascular responses during the test aids in diagnosing conditions like hypertension or evaluating autonomic nervous system function.

Pain Management and Rehabilitation:

Pain management and rehabilitation practitioners often use the Cold Pressor Test to evaluate the effectiveness of pain relief techniques or medications. By measuring the patient's pain tolerance before and after a specific intervention, healthcare providers can gauge its efficacy and make adjustments to optimize pain control strategies.

Psychological and Behavioral Studies:

In psychology, researchers use the Cold Pressor Test to study pain perception, stress responses, and emotional regulation. It provides valuable insights into individual differences in pain tolerance and how psychological factors influence pain experiences. This test helps understand the psychophysiological aspects of pain, aiding in developing psychological interventions for pain management.

Pharmacological Research:

Pharmaceutical researchers employ the Cold Pressor Test to evaluate new analgesic drugs' efficacy and potential side effects. By exposing individuals to cold-induced pain and measuring their responses, researchers can assess the drug's impact on pain perception, helping develop safer and more effective pain medications.

Experimental Studies:

Scientists and researchers across various disciplines utilize the Cold Pressor Test in experimental settings to induce controlled stress responses. This stress induction is crucial for studying stress-related conditions, neurobiological responses, and behavioral adaptations.

What do the results mean?

Interpreting the results of a Cold Pressor Test (CPT) is a crucial step in understanding an individual's pain tolerance and cardiovascular responses. Here are common results and their interpretations:

Pain Tolerance Time:

  • Short Duration (e.g., <1 minute): A short pain tolerance time suggests a lower pain threshold. Individuals who quickly withdraw their hands or feet from the cold water may have a lower tolerance for painful stimuli. This could be due to heightened pain sensitivity or certain medical conditions.
  • Moderate Duration (e.g., 1-3 minutes): A moderate tolerance time is within the normal range for most individuals. It indicates an average pain threshold, and their ability to endure pain is neither exceptionally high nor low.
  • Extended Duration (e.g., >3 minutes): An extended pain tolerance time suggests a high pain threshold. Individuals who can withstand cold water for an extended period typically have a higher tolerance for painful stimuli. This may be attributed to better pain modulation or psychological resilience.

Cardiovascular Responses:

  • Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Increase: A common response during the CPT is a temporary increase in blood pressure and heart rate. This is a normal physiological reaction to the body's stress from exposure to cold. However, excessively high increases may indicate an exaggerated cardiovascular response and could be a concern, especially in patients with cardiovascular conditions.
  • Stable Cardiovascular Parameters: Some individuals may exhibit relatively stable cardiovascular parameters during the test. This suggests effective autonomic nervous system regulation and a well-maintained cardiovascular response to stress.

Subjective Pain Reports:

  • Mild Pain: Individuals who report mild discomfort or pain but can endure the test indicate a moderate pain perception. This is a common response.
  • Moderate to Severe Pain: Individuals who experience moderate to severe pain and cannot tolerate the test for an extended period may have heightened pain sensitivity or underlying pain conditions.

Psychological Responses:

  • Emotional and Behavioral Responses: CPT results can provide insights into psychological responses to pain. Individuals who exhibit emotional distress or anxiety during the test may benefit from psychological interventions for pain management.

It's essential to consider individual variations in interpreting CPT results. What's normal for one person may not be for another, and factors such as age, gender, pain history, and underlying medical conditions can influence the outcomes. Therefore, CPT results should be interpreted in conjunction with a comprehensive clinical assessment to provide a holistic understanding of a patient's pain perception and cardiovascular health.

Why use Carepatron as your Cold Pressor app?

Carepatron is a leading provider of Cold Pressor Test apps and software, known for its comprehensive features, user-friendly interface, and commitment to healthcare excellence. It is designed to cater to the healthcare industry's unique needs, offering robust data management capabilities for secure and efficient data collection, storage, and analysis. The user-friendly interface simplifies the Cold Pressor Test procedure, ensuring seamless administration and data input.

Carepatron strongly emphasizes data security and compliance with healthcare regulations, ensuring patient information and test results are kept confidential and following legal and ethical standards. It also offers integration capabilities with other healthcare systems and tools, facilitating seamless workflow for healthcare providers and researchers.

Customization options cater to the unique needs of different healthcare settings. Carepatron provides dedicated customer support and training to assist users in effectively implementing and utilizing the platform. Additionally, Carepatron fosters research collaboration by allowing multiple users to access and work on the same dataset, facilitating collaborative research efforts and data sharing.

Carepatron is the best choice for Cold Pressor Test apps and software due to its healthcare-focused approach, data management capabilities, user-friendly interface, data security, and adaptability. Its commitment to excellence in healthcare technology makes it a reliable and efficient solution for healthcare professionals and researchers conducting Cold Pressor Tests and related studies.

Clinical Documentation Software


Brown, K. S., Raj, S. R., Farquhar, W. B., & Barnes, J. N. (2019). Impaired cerebrovascular function in migraine with aura. Cephalalgia, 39(1), 45-52.

Crawford, L., & Crawford, M. (1929). The cold pressor test for measuring the reactibility of the blood pressure: Data concerning 571 normal and hypertensive subjects. American Heart Journal, 4(1), 68-73.

Davis, M. C., Zautra, A. J., & Reich, J. W. (2018). Vulnerability to stress among women in chronic pain from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 52(2), 106-116.

Johnson, M. I., & Tabasam, G. (2020). An investigation into the effects of cold pressor pain and the anticipation of pain on seat pressure discomfort and micro-break activity in healthy adults. Musculoskeletal Science and Practice, 47, 102126.

Parker, R. S., & Lewis, G. N. (2019). Central sensitization in whiplash associated disorders: A cross-sectional observational study. Manual Therapy, 37, 19-24.

Roberts, A., Lowe, R., & Fox, J. R. (2021). Cortical-evoked responses in chronic low back pain patients with non-specific lumbar pain, localised and widespread mechanical sensitization: A cross-sectional study. PloS One, 16(3), e0248676.

Smith, J. H., Petruzzello, S. J., & Kramer, J. M. (2018). The cold pressor test: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiological Reports, 6(8), e13628.

White, J. R., Foster, F., & Goumas, C. (2021). The effect of repeated cold pressor test exposures on blood pressure and pulse wave velocity in young healthy adults. Frontiers in Physiology, 11, 606358.

Wilson, A. L., Brown, A. L., & Heimberg, R. G. (2020). Social anxiety and risk for alcohol use disorders: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Depression and Anxiety, 37(9), 842-853.

Why is the Cold Pressor Test performed?
Why is the Cold Pressor Test performed?

Commonly asked questions

Why is the Cold Pressor Test performed?

The CPT is conducted for various purposes, including pain research, pain management evaluation, cardiovascular assessment, and studying the body's response to stress.

How is the Cold Pressor Test administered?

A container filled with ice-cold water is prepared, and the patient is instructed to immerse a body part in the cold water up to a certain point. A timer is started, and the patient's pain tolerance and cardiovascular responses are monitored.

What are the common parameters for the Cold Pressor Test?

Common parameters include water temperature (usually 0°C), test duration (typically 1-5 minutes), and monitoring of blood pressure, heart rate, and symptoms.

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