cold compression therapyGetting your patients back on their feet and actively participating in life as fast as possible after musculoskeletal injuries or surgery is an important part of your role as their  physical therapist or surgeon. While the traditional RICE regimen is widely accepted for treating injury and helping with post-surgery rehabilitation, you undoubtedly know that many patients struggle to comply with the Ice and Compression parts of the regimen.  Simple circulating water therapy is messy, inconvenient and lacking in good temperature control. Ice packs are not well designed for the body's anatomical differences and can even burn soft tissue if they are too cold.

Compression of the affected area is very important as well to speed healing, but many of today's basic compressive sleeves don't get the job done effectively. That's because numerous studies show that intermittent compression is the superior method to optimize healing and speed recovery time.

Fortunately, there are systems available that use NASA-based space-age technology to deliver cold therapy and intermittent compression. When seeking a cold therapy system, look for these seven important features:

1.      Dual action construction

Dual-action wraps offer two separate internal chambers, one for air and the other for water. This enables the wrap to simultaneously supply intermittent compression as well as adjustable cold therapy.

2.      Long-lasting cold

Look for a cold therapy system that can deliver therapy for several hours or longer. This enables the patient to gain the proven healing and pain-relief benefits of cold therapy. 

3.      Adjustable temperature controls

Cold therapy has been shown in numerous studies to decrease pain and muscle spasms, reduce tissue damage and swelling. But it doesn't work well if the temperature becomes too high over time or too low, which is painful for soft tissue and will reduce patient compliance. Seek out a solution that offers temperature adjustability so your patient can customize their treatment and stay with the program. Most therapists say that a temperature range between 35°F and 50°F is optimal for effective cold therapy treatment.

4.      Adjustable intermittent compression

As we noted earlier, numerous studies show that intermittent compression is effective for preventing edema formation, increasing blood flow and stimulating tissue healing. These studies further note that while static compression is a good therapy for edema reduction, the so-called intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) method optimizes lymphatic drainage, which accelerates healing by removal of edema from injured soft tissue. IPC also aids recovery from intense exertion or injury, particularly when the person is unable to generate rhythmic muscle contraction, notes one study.

One advanced compression and cold therapy system offers three different  pneumatic compression settings as well as the option of no compression.

5.      Portability

You'll improve your patients' compliance if you recommend a cold therapy system that's portable so they can take their equipment with them wherever they go.

6.      Anatomic wraps

The knees aren't shaped like the shoulder, which is different from the wrist, which is very different from the back or hip. Don't tell your patients to pick up a one-type-fits-all wrap from their neighborhood pharmacy. Instead, recommend a cold therapy system that also includes lightweight, easy-to-use wraps specifically engineered for all the key body parts.

7.      Ease of use

Since your patients will be in charge of their cold and compression therapy, offer them a system with customized wrap fit and adjustable control unit settings - temperature, pneumatic pressure and time of treatment - so they manage their care more easily and stay compliant.

Professional athletes as well as weekend warriors depend on you to improve their recovery program. How can we help you help them?