If you’re physically active, you’ve probably experienced at least one injury that required you to follow what is known as the RICE regimen – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It’s not an easy program to follow, mainly due to the second and third parts of the regimen, ice and compression. Because RICE is difficult to maintain over time, sometimes people trying to recover use just a simple ice water therapy system to reduce the swelling and pain caused by a soft tissue or musculoskeletal injury. But ice water therapy isn’t good enough; compression is very important as well. Fortunately, there’s a NASA-grade option that offers both treatments in one simple and reliable system.
Here are five reasons why ice water therapy alone should not be your treatment choice:
1. Slower healing
Numerous studies have shown that ice water therapy used alone delays the healing process, which means you’re out of work longer, or can’t get off the couch and back to your normal activities as soon as you would like. The reason healing is slower is due to the fact that you need compression treatment to optimize lymphatic drainage. This will accelerate the healing process because of removal of edema from injured soft tissue.
2. Increased pain
No matter where you hurt, pain makes your life miserable. When patients use a combination of cold therapy and compression, especially systems that offer intermittent compression, their pain is substantially decreased. One study followed patients who underwent anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery. At six weeks postoperatively, 83 percent of all patients using a compressive cold therapy system had discontinued all pain medication, compared with only 27 percent of those who used only cold therapy.
3. Poorer temperature control
Basic ice therapy or cold packs don’t allow the user to easily adjust the temperature. Higher temperatures will result in slower healing; too-low temperatures can be uncomfortable, and even painful (cold packs sometimes cause skin burns), which usually results in poor patient compliance – and therefore a slower return to normal activity.
Simple circulating ice water therapy systems or cold packs may seem like an easy option. In fact, they’re harder to use than systems that combine cold therapy and compression in a dual-action wrap. Cold packs are messy, lumpy, wet and they don’t conform well to many parts of the body.
5. Inefficient design
Ice water therapy or cold packs aren’t engineered to conform specifically to specific areas of the body that typically require cold therapy after an injury, such as the ankle, knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist or hand. This makes them less effective in delivering the therapy that’s needed, which slows down recovery time.