When most people hear ofcryotherapy, they think of polar bear plunges into icy waters with friends. People usually take these icy plunges in order to raise some money for charity. But did you know there are tremendous health benefits associated with cold plunges as well?
Chances are, you’ve heard about cryotherapy before.
Maybe you’ve sprained an ankle or pulled a muscle and had a coach tell you to “ice it.”
Or perhaps you’ve heard of top-notch athletes submerging themselves in tubs full of ice after intense matches?
You may even have heard Wim Hof, the “IceMan,”a Youtube sensation who has long been praising the effects of freezing temperatures on the body. If you happen to catch one of his interviews you’ll see him, and his millions of followers, praising the benefits of cold plunges, things like increased vitality and longevity.
Ice and cold water immersion enthusiasts like Wim Hof routinely expose themselves to freezing temperatures. They claim that the ice has the power to reduce pain and swelling. And that freezing temperature is the key to relieving sore muscles and reducing inflammation.
Is there a chance all this buzz might be true?
Could cold therapy really be the key to a speedy, less painful recovery process?
Well, let’s take a look.
What is cryotherapy?
Athletes that use cryotherapy chambers do so because the freezing temperatures jumpstart blood circulation, providing pain relief for sore muscles and speeding up the body’s natural recovery process.
Cryotherapy is the use of near, or below, freezing temperatures to help alleviate pains like arthritis, runners’ hips, sprained ankles, and other physical ailments.
It is also commonly referred to as cold therapy or ice therapy.
Cryotherapy can be employed in several different ways. One way is to throw some ice packs, or even ice cubes into the tub where you bathe. Another is to take a plunge in some frosty Winter-chilled waters. You could also use compression therapy or visit an ice chamber near you.
While many of these methods have been successful for trained practitioners and athletes, they can be harmful or even dangerous for beginners (especially just jumping into an ice-covered lake!). Before implementing any form of cold therapy system, do thorough research and consult your physician.
Because of the easy learning curve, low risk, and pinpointed treatment, ice therapy machines are often the best cold therapy for post-injury recovery.
What are the benefits of cryotherapy?
Falling on the playground is often treated with a bag of frozen peas. Cold therapy machines use similar concepts to reduce pain and promote healing for more serious injuries.
1. Pain relief
Whether experiencing ankle pain, shoulder pain, or other joint pain, an ice therapy system helps to treat both symptoms and root causes.
After sustaining an injury, your body’s natural defense mechanism is inflammation. Some inflammation is helpful, but too much causes stiffness and reduces blood flow. This causes pain and slows recovery time.
Implementing an ice therapy system reduces joint pain in two ways. First, the cool temperature numbs your pain receptors, so you feel more comfortable during the recovery process. Second, significant cooling calms the inflammation that causes joint stiffness.
With cold therapy reducing pain, you can take less medicine and avoid side effects.
2. Increased blood flow
One of the keys to ice therapy is that it increases blood flow.
Your body is designed to regulate its own temperature in order to keep you alive. When exposed to frigid temperatures via a cold therapy machine, an ice bath, or stepping outside, your body kickstarts its healing process.
To maintain a survivable internal temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, your heart pumps blood through your body at a faster rate.
This continuous flow also carries oxygen and nutrients with it, reaching parts of your body that may have been suffering from poor circulation due to inflammation.
Among the many therapeutic benefits of ice therapy, increased blood flow is the most important.
Cold therapy devices are the most successful method for getting more blood flow to where you need it for pain management and a healthy recovery.
3. Improved sleep
According to the Chicago Tribune, quality sleep is essential to the healing process.
Getting a good night’s sleep gives your body more time to heal efficiently. When you’re asleep, your body has more energy because it’s not busy walking around, picking things up, and pondering existential questions.
Instead, your body can focus more energy on repairing tissue damage, healing bones, and reducing inflammation.
Sleep also strengthens your immune system, so good rest can supply you with more white blood cells. These white blood cells can then go and attack bacteria and viruses that might worsen your injury.
Anyone who has experienced pain before can tell you that it keeps you up at night. The consequences of a poor night’s sleep go beyond waking up cranky. You are also increasing your chances of a longer recovery time and infection.
Cold therapy helps reduce the pain that keeps you up at night, allowing you to get more of the deep rest that leads to full recoveries.
4. Stronger immune system
Inflammation and the poor circulation that comes with it makes it harder for your body to fight off bacteria and viruses.
Exposure to colder temperatures, such as applying ice packs, triggers a survival instinct in your body that produces more white blood cells.
Getting sick while in recovery only makes the process worse. You feel miserable. Your body has to spend energy on fighting off the infection instead of healing your injury. And, you get lower quality sleep, so you have even less energy for recovering.
Combining a higher white blood cell count with improved circulation can reduce the risk of recovery-prolonging afflictions.
What do cold therapy machines do?
Cold therapy machines take the benefits of ice therapy and combine them with localized compression treatment, reducing pain and helping to minimize swelling and heal tissue damage.
Machines that provide cold therapy treatment are ideal for post operative recovery when compared to traditional ice packs, frozen water bottles, and ice baths.
How do ice therapy machines work?
The best ice therapy machines combine compression with cold therapy systems. Because they can expose your body to extreme cold and their purpose is to support injury recovery, cold therapy machines require a doctor’s prescription.
Cold therapy machines are made up of a cooling unit, a hose, and a compression pad.
The cooling unit takes chilled water, cools it to a therapeutic cold temperature, then pumps it through the hose. This creates a continuous flow from the machine to the site of your injury back to the machine where it is cooled again.
The best cold therapy machines continuously pump cold water through the compression pad because doing so keeps your injury site at a consistent temperature. This improves comfort and increases the therapeutic benefits of cold exposure.
Compression pads that rely on traditional aspects are less efficient because as you wear them, the ice packs melt. The temperature is inconsistent. You also have to replace the packs more frequently, so you have to go through the chilling application more often.
Post surgery recovery
A cold therapy machine can be an essential piece to your post surgery recovery. Compression pads hold tendons and joints in place so you have less of a chance of aggravating your injury. Cold therapy reduces inflammation so you can heal faster and feel much less pain during the process.
Using a cold therapy machine is the most effective form of cold therapy for post surgery recovery because it provides treatment only to your injury site.
This is important for your comfort and for the effectiveness of the treatment. You don’t have to make your whole arm cold just to soothe your elbow, and your body’s response to the cold focuses on the spot it needs to instead of your entire body.
Cold therapy machines that include compression treatment come with two different types of compression: active and constant.
Constant compression keeps the pressure at a steady level while the pad is applied. Constant pressure works well to relieve pain while slowly reducing swelling.
Active compression involves intermittent periods of increased pressure, so it’s more like a massage. Active compression is also great for relieving pain, and the massaging effect allows for more blood flow and rapid reduction of swelling.
Should I be using an ice therapy machine?
If you are recovering from any type of injury, from a torn rotator cuff to knee surgery, it is worth talking about cold therapy machines with your doctor.
Cold therapy machines can reduce your recovery time, getting you back to your life sooner, and they can make you more comfortable during the process.
Which cold therapy machine could be right for me?
Choosing the best cold therapy machine for you is an important decision, and you should consult your doctor to make sure you choose the cold therapy unit that is designed for your injury.
What to consider
When searching for the cold therapy system that is best for you, prioritize the features that are most important to you. Here are some things to make sure you consider:
- How active will you be during your recovery period?
- Is the cold therapy unit battery powered or does it need to always be plugged in?
- Are the compression pads molded for my injury site and do they come in my size?
- Does the cold therapy unit make a lot of noise?
- Do the pads apply constant or active compression?
- What is my budget?
Your doctor will be a valuable resource for your decision.
Where to start
If you are considering ice therapy machines as part of your recovery process, Breg cold therapy is a good place to start your search.
Breg cold therapy offers a wide range of ice therapy machines that can serve different needs for activity level, mobility, injury site, budget, and compression method.
The Breg Polar Care Cube is well suited for patients who will be spending most of their recovery at home.
The Breg Polar Care Cube is an easy-to-use cold therapy unit. It is most often used for recovery with or after physical therapy, reconstructive surgery, arthroscopic pain, postoperative care, general surgery, chronic pain, and plastic surgery.
Its main advantage is that it is simple to set up. To get started feeling relief, just add the water, ice, close the lid, strap on your compression pads, and connect the unit to power. Here are some of its other features:
- Lasts 6-8 hours before the water and ice need changing
- WrapOn Polar Pads are made with elastic straps to fit your form without the need for additional padding (a towel is still needed to separate your skin from the cold surface).
- Compatible Polar Care compression pads are available for your knee, shoulder, ankle, hip, and back
- Polar Care multi-use pads are also available
The Breg Polar Care Cube is available for $123.99 and packages that include the cooler and a brace range from $189.97 to $209.97.
The Breg Polar Care Kodiak Cold Therapy System is a good choice for patients who wish to be more active during their recovery period.
The Breg Polar Care Kodiak Cold Therapy System is battery-compatible, making it one of the best ice therapy machines for those who can still be mobile during their recovery process. Its features are:
- While plugged in, you can benefit from 6-8 hours of cold therapy before needing to change the ice and water
- The battery pack (sold seperately) can power the cooling system and pump for 10-14 hours
- Compatible with multi-use, shoulder, knee, ankle, hip, and back compression pads
The Breg Polar Care Kodiak Cold Therapy System with a compression pad ranges in price from $199.99 to $229.99, and the battery can be purchased for $58.99.
The Breg Polar Care Wave Cold Compression Therapy System offers more advanced features than the earlier models.
The Breg Polar Care Wave Cold Compression Therapy System is a great system for patients that want a speedier and more comfortable at-home recovery. This model features:
- Quieter motor than previous models that makes this model great for home use
- Even without a battery, this model can be easily transported to another power source at a care or training facility
- Compatible with knee, hip, shoulder, ankle, multi-use, and back pads
- Offers active compression to massage swelling and improve circulation
- Perhaps something like “3rd generation design enables active compression with cold therapy which can last for as long as 6-8 hours.
The Breg Care Wave Cold Compression Therapy System is available for $218.99, and with a pad it can be purchased for up to $349.99.
The Breg Polar Care Glacier Cold Therapy System is ideal for caregivers providing for patients in a hospital.
The Breg Polar Care Glacier Cold Therapy System is designed with caregivers in mind. Its wide selection of features improves care for patients going through intense recovery. This model features:
- Up to 13 hours of soothing, cold water relief
- Whisper quiet pump to allow patients rest while receiving treatment
- Compatible with sterile dressings and compression pads for shoulders, knees, ankles, hips, wrists, and back
The Breg Polar Care Glacier Cold Therapy System is available with a range of pads from $249.99 to $269.99.
Get back on your feet.
The Breg cold therapy line is a great place to begin your search for the best ice therapy machine. With options that cover needs for mobility, compression, ease-of-use, and budget, they can jumpstart a discussion with your doctor about the solution that fits your specific needs.
For more options, check out this list of seven high-quality cold therapy systems and find out how you can get relief during your recovery.