Cold therapy is a time-tested method for obtaining relief from pain, especially when you are injured, strain a muscle, or are recovering from surgery. This technique is part of the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method for healing and is widely used across the world. One of the common ways to utilize cold therapy is with an ice pack held in place with an elastic bandage.
Advances in technology have made it easier to apply cold therapy when you need it. Cold therapy machines work by circulating water through an ice reservoir. The reservoir connects to a wrap that provides the element of compression, which may help reduce swelling. With a cold therapy unit, you get the combined benefits of therapeutic cold and targeted pressure to aid in your healing.
3 Benefits of Using a Cold Therapy Machine
Cold therapy machines may be recommended by physicians, athletic trainers and physical therapists alike for one of many reasons including:
More Efficient than Ice
The combination of compression and cold has been clinically proven to be more effective than ice therapy alone.1 Cold alleviates pain and reduces swelling by restricting blood flow to the area, and compression also reduces swelling and allows the therapeutic cold to penetrate deeper and last longer.
Convenience and Portability
Applying ice packs can be a hassle, especially for areas such as your knee or shoulder. It is also difficult to control the temperature of an ice pack, and the ice may melt quickly. With a cold therapy unit, you get consistent temperature throughout each session because cold water is circulated throughout the machine. These machines are also often portable, so they can be used at home.
Less Pain Medication
Cold therapy units decrease pain by numbing nerve endings in your body. This slows down communication between your body and your brain, resulting in less pain. Using a cold therapy machine may help you rely less on medication as you recover from surgery or an injury.2
About Cold Therapy Units
Before investing in a cold therapy machine, there are a few factors to consider.
It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional before starting cold compression therapy and follow their recommendations for treatment. Because cold therapy machines stay colder for longer spans of time, it’s important to use them as directed.
- Waterman B, Walker JJ, Swains C, Shortt M, Todd MS, Machen SM, Owens BD. The efficacy of combined cryotherapy compression compared with cryotherapy alone following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. The Journal of Knee Surgery. 2012; 25, (02):155-160. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22928433. Accessed April 7, 2021.
- Block J. Cold and compression in the management of musculoskeletal injuries and orthopedic operative procedures: a narrative review. Open Access J Sports Med. 2010:105-113. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3781860. Accessed April 7, 2021