What is Cooling Therapy and how does it work?

What is Cooling Therapy?

Cooling therapy (aka Cryotherapy or Cold Therapy) involves applying something cold to an arm or leg which has had surgery or an injury. The classic example is applying an ice pack after an injury.

How does Cooling Therapy work?

Cooling therapy (aka Cryotherapy) reduces the amount of pain that a patient feels after surgery. After an operation, pain sensations travel from the area of surgery to the spinal cord and up to the brain. When the only sensation the patient is feeling is pain, the pain tends to become the focus and is felt more intensely. By applying the sensation of cold to the arm or leg, we essentially "distract" the brain and spinal cord from the pain. This is also how acupuncture works. It's similar to having two people talking to you at the same time. The cold therapy distracts us from the pain.

Has Cooling Therapy been proven in Medical Studies to reduce pain?

Yes. Multiple studies have demonstrated the benefits that cooling therapy has in reducing pain.

Does Cooling Therapy improve my chance of healing?

No. Cooling therapy only reduces pain and inflammation and does not improve the chance of healing. This means that in the longer term, your chance of success after an operation is not affected by your decision over whether to use cooling therapy.

What are the advantages to using the Cooling Therapy?

By lessening your pain levels, you should be able to use less pain medication. These strong pain medications (like Oxyxodone) have unfortunate side effects including addiction, constipation, and weight gain, and so reducing the need for the medications by using the Cooling Therapy has significant potential advantages for the patient.

Do I need anything else apart from the machine and pads?

Yes, lots of ICE!! In addition the machine runs on power and you will need access to a power outlet. There is a battery pack adapter for patients wanting mobility, however this requires 4 AA batteries and only lasts a couple of hours. It will also help to have a good friend or relative to fill the machine with ice for you and help you apply the pads, although you can do this on your own.

Are there any potential side effects to using cold therapy?

All treatments have potential side effects. When cold therapy is used excessively without giving the skin a rest, some patients can develop a blotchy rash in the skin. This usually disappears rapidly once the cold therapy is stopped.

How long should I have the cooling machine?

Most people benefit by using the machine for a 2 week period.

How many hours should I use the cooling therapy each day?

Most people use the cooling therapy for 2 to 3 hours. You should then have a 30 to 60 min break to allow your skin to recover while you re-load the machine with ice. If you use the machine without a break you may get a blotchy skin rash which usually disappears once the cooling therapy is stopped.