When you want something to help relieve swelling and pain in your body, you have virtually hundreds of choices available.
Whether it’s over-the-counter pain relievers, supplements, or therapy equipment, it’s hard to know which does the best job.
What is a Cold Therapy Machine and How Does It Work?
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a Cold Therapy Machine and How Does It Work?
- 2 Best Ice Therapy Machines 2018
- 3 1. Ossur Cold Rush Cold Therapy Systems
- 4 2. Polar Active Ice System
- 5 3. Cryotherapy Arctic Water Therapy
- 6 4. ARS Aqua Relief Hot or Cold System
- 7 5. Aircast Cryo Cuff System
- 8 Why You Should Buy a Cold Therapy Machine
- 9 What to Look for in a Cold Therapy Machine
- 9.1 The Appropriate Run Times
- 9.2 Pad Vs. Wrap Attachment
- 9.3 The Cost—How Much Is a Cold Therapy Machine?
- 9.4 Frequently Asked Questions About Ice Therapy and Ice Therapy Machines
- 10 What to Avoid in a Cold Therapy Machine
- 11 Always Take Precautions
- 12 Our Final Take
A cold therapy machine is specifically made for reducing body swelling and pain, using extremely cold liquid. Cold therapy or cryotherapy machine delivers pain relief while helping injuries heal faster using freezing agents and ice water.
Cold therapy works by reducing blood flow to the affected area which alleviates pain by reducing swelling and inflammation. It also relieves pain by temporarily reducing nerve activity (Source).
Applying cold therapy to the injury reduces the temperature of the damaged tissue which reduces the swelling. The cold also numbs the nerve receptors and reduces the pain in the damaged tissue area.
Our cold therapy machine reviews showcase the top five machines to help you find a machine that’s right for you.
Best Ice Therapy Machines 2018
|Ossur Cold Rush Cold Therapy System|
|Polar Active Ice System|
|Cryotherapy Arctic Water Therapy|
|ARS Aqua Relief Hot or Cold|
|Aircast Cryo Cuff System|
The shape and size of the pad make it adaptable to different body parts like the hips and knees.
A durable yet quiet motor has four power settings which continuously delivers cold water for up to six hours. The Cold Rush has a strong flow rate but has only 30 decibels of sound, making it whisper quiet.
A high ice-to-water ratio means less heat transfer which means more consistent cold therapy pain relief. With a weight of only 4.6-pounds, your pain relief system is easily transportable and a good alternative to larger units.
There are many beneficial uses for the Ossur Cold Rush, including localized pain relief, post-surgery treatment, and athletic therapy. The machine eliminates symptoms and reduces swelling.
Many physicians and therapists recommend the Ossur cold therapy machine to their patients.
Built with an ergonomic design, the Cold Rush includes intuitive controls and a carrying handle for easy operation. Insulated walls improve cooling, and a unique locking lid prevents spills.
- Intuitive Control Knob
- Insulated Walls
- 6-Hour Ice Water Ratio
- Quiet Motor
- Locking Lid
- Convenient Carrying Handle
- Light 4.6-Pound Weight
Polar Active Ice uses a non-motorized pump and five feet of water line, sending cold pressure to the injured area. The pump itself is insulated to keep the cold liquid from escaping. Compactly designed, the Polar’s reservoir is a 15-quart wheeled cooler.
With its user-friendly design, the Polar Active lets you control and regulate the temperature and flow rate. A built-in timer lets you set it and forget it for up to thirty minutes before the machine automatically shuts off.
Even with a design made for post-surgery pain relief, the Polar Active also works well for other injuries and treatments. A 44-inch, universal stretch belt, and U-shaped bladder make it adaptable to different body areas.
A black compressions wrap encloses the bladder while holding it in place on the injury area. The wrap insulates the injury for controlled condensation and cooling.
A soft cotton packing comes with the wrap for insulating the outer fabric and absorbing skin moisture. This added insulation protects the skin from injury by direct cold trauma.
Polar Active Ice is a durable and easy to use system that provides years of use.
- Non-Motorized Pump
- Versatile Universal Bladder
- Adjustable Flow Rate and Temperature
- Universal Stretch Belt
- Black Compression Wrap with Soft Cotton Packing
The small motorized machine is big on supplying cold therapy, using a specialized technique called constant circulation compression. The Arctic Ice also boasts two controls for on and off and for timing or constant and continuous settings.
Due to the Arctic’s smaller size, you’ll find the need for refilling more frequent. However, even with its compact size, the Arctic Water Therapy system delivers 6-8 hours of cold water with one fill-up.
The cold therapy machine includes a universal cooling pad which you connect to the six foot insulated hoses.
Even with its drawbacks, the Arctic Ice Therapy system has an extremely sturdy and effective build at this lower price range.
- 360° Cooling and Circulation
- Helps Reduce Swelling and Pain
- Locking Latch top
- 7 – 8 Hours Continuous Therapy
- Patented Semi-Closed Loop System
- Compatible with Different Pads
The Aqua Relief system has a design for use on the head, limbs, and torso. This design allows the Aqua Relief user to alternate between hot and cold therapy treatments.
Manufactured by Pain Management Technologies, this unit features a large-volume with a low weight of only seven ounces. The large-volume reservoir continuously delivers hot or cold therapy for up to eight hours.
An anti-interference design keeps the user from opening the lid when in water therapy mode. Also, the reservoir has a shoulder strap that lets you transport the machine for added mobility during therapy.
A timer controlled heating element is an added safety feature to avoid overheated water and accidental burns. Water temperature is adjustable with a high and low-temperature setting knob and a heat range of 105° to 120° Fahrenheit.
With the cryotherapy function, you get a temperature adjustment of 32° – 105° Fahrenheit. The cold settings work well for managing pain and inflammation. However, it’s inadvisable to use the cold function at it lowest setting for extended periods of time. Long periods of cold leads to sustained vasoconstriction which aggravates the injury and causes extreme pain.
- 105° – 120° F Heat Setting
- High-Grade Universal Power Plug
- Includes Therapy Pad
- 12-Month Manufacturer’s Warranty
Included with the Cryo Cuff are the tube assembly, insulation disk, and plastic fittings and it works on either leg. By placing the cryo jug above the knee, you get cold water delivered directly to the cryo cuff.
Placing the jug below the knee circulates the water back into the jug where it’s re-cooled. The small size and portability of the Aircast Cryo Cuff let you easily carry it anywhere.
Aircast Cryo is inexpensive and an affordable alternative to using ice packs.
- Non-Motorized Gravity Fed System
- Direct Water Chilled Delivery System
- 6-8 Hour Holding Capacity
Why You Should Buy a Cold Therapy Machine
Using ice packs for injury does provide some relief from the pain and inflammation.
However, this method is inefficient when using for long periods and very messy.
As the ice melts, ice packs drip and become soggy, making them inadequate cold therapy compression.
A cold therapy machine delivers a deep-penetrating, long lasting cold therapy with more efficiency than ice packs.
Benefits of a Cold Therapy Machine
Cold therapy machines use a padded area to deliver cold pain relief to the injured area. Many of these systems use motors for delivering a strong yet controllable ice flow to the injury.
- Ice therapy machines have the capability of providing a therapy known as active compression. Active compression and the therapeutic cold combination make these machines superior to ice packs for pain relief and swelling reduction. Cold compression also promotes lymphatic injury drainage, removes edema, and increases blood flow circulation to the injury. Cold therapy helps promote body healing, naturally.
- Most of the universal wraps included with the cold therapy machine give more injury coverage than the traditional ice pack. Better coverage means the cryotherapy penetrates the injury area more broadly and deeply. With broader penetration, the user gets better relief.
- Cold therapy machines are easier to use while resting, giving you better healing effects. Some machines are configurable so you can get the benefits of cold therapy while you sleep.When using cold therapy during rest or sleep, your life returns to normal quicker. When you sleep or rest better, you heal faster.
- With a cold therapy machine, you can regulate the temperature better than you can with ice packs. Many cold machines have temperature control and safety regulating features which include auto-shutoff. Without a regulator, you can easily injure yourself with the condition known as vasoconstriction, which is common with ice packs. Temperature regulation gives you the cold sensation at safe levels throughout the cryotherapy session.
What to Look for in a Cold Therapy Machine
The Appropriate Run Times
When it comes to treating injuries or recovering from surgery, ice therapy machines do an amazing job. However, not all machines are created equal so you should shop around to find the best option for you.
When looking at motorized machines, look for long run times, especially if you plan using it through the night. Many of the motorized machines can work continuously for six to eight hours.
Some may work longer when running them on the lowest temperature setting which works well for damaged tissue. Since the machines have motors, they make noise which may make sleep impossible when using cold therapy.
Pad Vs. Wrap Attachment
Many machines come with a pad. When the site you want to treat is a joint, a pad may not work that well. Either look for a machine that includes a wrap attachment or one that has an option for buying a wrap. A wrap gives you better coverage for a more effective cold treatment.
The Cost—How Much Is a Cold Therapy Machine?
Note that when it comes to cost, it is not so much about the actual money but the quality. If the quality is high, then it is always worth it to invest the extra money required to purchase that particular machine.
When determining a cost that you are comfortable with, you should consider the brand, the type of machine, and the cold agent—liquid nitrogen or water. With these factors in mind, it becomes easier to choose between the expensive devices, the mid-range priced ones, and the inexpensive machines.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ice Therapy and Ice Therapy Machines
What Is Cold Therapy Used For?
Ice or cold therapy is used to reduce pain and inflammation and promote quicker healing. It does this by helping to lower the temperature of the injured tissue. As a result, the tissue’s metabolic rate is reduced, and the tissue survives the period following the injury.
The idea for ice therapy originates from studies that show that the body activates a hunting reaction after 10 minutes of cold therapy. This hunting response is a cycle of decreased blood flow and increased blood flow which increases the delivery of nutrient-rich blood and oxygen to the tissue.
Note that you should be very careful when selecting an ice machine. Excessive cooling or lack of temperature control when using the machine can result in frostbite or severe tissue damage.
What Happens If You Ice for Too Long?
Icing for too long causes more harm than good. As noted above, ice therapy involves constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow.
If you ice for too long, the hunting response will not kick in which means you slow down the healing process. Medical experts advise that you should never ice for more than 20 minutes. The ideal time is, however, 10 minutes.
How Long Should You Ice After Surgery?
A key reason why people invest in ice machines is for use after surgery. Consider knee surgery, for instance. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons notes that swelling after knee surgery can last up to six months.
To help reduce inflammation and pain, surgeons recommend an ice pack or ice therapy. Immediately after the surgery, you are supposed to ice the knee three to four times per day for roughly ten to twenty minutes per session.
After the first few days and once the swelling has reduced a bit, then you can alternate between cold and heat to facilitate relaxation of the muscles and to ease stiffness.
However, if you are in doubt, please consult your surgeon. He or she will be able to tell you how long you should after surgery depending on the type of surgery.
Is Ice Therapy Safe?
Yes, when used correctly, ice therapy is incredibly safe. It has been used in various medical institutions for years. The problem arises when one does not follow instructions.
As a result, it is crucial that you take the time to read through the instructions and any manual that comes with the ice therapy machine.
What to Avoid in a Cold Therapy Machine
When you’re on a budget, buying a used machine might be something you are considering. But, no matter how good the price, buying used is not the best idea. Buying a used machine has hazardous risks like poor temperature regulation and leaking tubes.
Besides the possible dangers, a used machine may not work or may not work as effectively. With no warranty, there is no way to get your money back should the machine break down. Cold therapy machines fall under the category of regulated medical devices. This means that to ensure quality regulations are met, only licensed medical professionals sell these machines.
When talking about health, spending more for better quality is always worth the cost. With proper storage and use, an ice therapy machine can last for years. Investing in a new, high-quality machine instead of used can help you get the best therapy for the money.
Always Take Precautions
Regardless of which machine you purchase, there are precautions you should take to avoid the risk of damaging the skin. Determine injury susceptibility by inspecting the treatment area about three to five minutes after turning the machine on. If there is no damage, continue use checking at thirty-minute intervals.
Once you determine your skin can handle the therapy, always check for skin damage every one to two hours. The best way to avoid injury is to use an insulation layer between your skin and the therapy pad. It’s best to use a buffer anytime you use the machine longer than fifteen minutes.
We also recommend that you never use the machine on the coldest setting. Prolonged use at very cold temperatures may cause painful freezer skin burn. Besides skin damage, a cold machine can make changes to your blood pressure. Until you know how your body reacts, always monitor your blood pressure during your therapy sessions.
If you do see a change in your blood pressure, stop use immediately. The elderly can’t retain heat as well, so sometimes, continued use can cause the blood vessels to constrict. Constriction can cause even more tissue damage.
Many times doctors and therapists recommend using ice therapy. It’s a good idea to always check with your doctor before starting a therapy program.
Our Final Take
It’s clinically proven that cold therapy helps reduce injury and muscle pain while easing tight and stiff muscles. The therapy helps remove the pains that come from working out which helps you complete your exercises without discomfort.
If you have soft-tissue injury or are recovering from surgery, cold therapy can speed up your recovery time. Cryotherapy reduces swelling and prevents more damage to help you on the road to recovery and your normal lifestyle.
Perhaps one of the best benefits of cryotherapy is the ability to reduce the need to rely on painkillers. An ice therapy machine is a convenient and easy way to get cold therapy in the comfort of your home. Cryo is more effective than ice, making the machine an ideal pain reliever.