A cold therapy machine or unit applies dual therapies of ice and compression for faster pain relief and healing of repetitive stress injuries. The combination of cold therapy and compression has a number of synergistic benefits. As a result, cold therapy units are now in increasing use to relief pain and quickly reduce inflammation and swelling after patients have experienced acute injuries. They have also found application to help patients recover quickly from surgical procedures.
The cold therapy from these machines lowers the metabolic rate of injured tissues and helps them survive for longer periods. The “hunting” effect of cold therapy causes blood vessels to vasoconstrict initially to reduce blood flow to damaged tissues. The blood vessels then dilate to allow a fresh supply of nutrient rich blood to the injured tissues.
Cold therapy machines also produce compression, which reduces pain and promotes healing. Compression increases external pressure on injured tissues, and this reduces swelling and edema. It also reduces tissue fluid loss. This too has been shown to reduce fluid accumulation and swelling.
However, the combination of cold and compression therapy from a cold therapy machine also has synergistic benefits:
Compression helps tissues to cool faster – this is a result of the larger skin contact area;
Compression also increases tissue density, which increases its thermal conductivity, so that the tissues again will cool faster as a result. They will also remain at low temperatures for longer periods after you have switched off the cold therapy unit.
The result of these benefits has been an increase in the usage of cold therapy machines by physiotherapists and sports medicine specialists.