What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is the delivery of therapeutic cold to help provide natural pain relief, , decrease swelling, and help your patients recover as quickly as possible. The classic application methods are cold packs filled with ice or gel to provide targeted cryotherapy to an injury and ice baths to treat larger areas of the body. However, as a medical professional, you have the ability to provide more advanced—and more effective—forms of cryotherapy.
Cryotherapy has come a long way since ice packs and ice baths were the only available methods. New systems use a combination of body-conforming wraps with control units to deliver therapeutic cold consistently and with targeted coverage.
Cryotherapy wraps have integrated chambers that circulate cold water and pneumatic air in separate, dedicated loop systems. The cold water flows back through an ice reservoir in the control unit to maintain the desired temperature. At the same time, the pneumatic air provides a pumping effect that increases the flow of fluids. This action helps pump away excess edema to reduce swelling and increases blood flow to promote healing. Intermittent compression enhances the benefits of therapeutic cold by allowing it to penetrate deeper and last longer than other methods.
The control unit allows you to create custom settings for each patient with a specific temperature, pressure level, and treatment time. There are also preset programs available so your patients can use the system on their own with the touch of a button.
Using a cryotherapy system is safer than other methods because it allows you to have complete control. A soft fabric lining prevents the cold source from coming into direct contact with the skin, reducing the risk of cold burns. The temperature controls help prevent any issues associated with too much cooling. You can also control the treatment time so cold is not applied for too long.
Unlike a whole-body chamber, a cryotherapy system provides localized therapy, so only the injured tissues are affected. Whole-body chambers also reduce the temperatures so much that they can be unsafe if the treatment is not provided with the proper care.
Ice baths are also a classic method of delivering therapeutic cold after an injury or to help recover from a strenuous workout session. However, ice baths can be uncomfortable and messy, and certain injuries are harder to treat.
Athletes and patients of all types may benefit from cold therapy when recovering from surgery-or an injury. The many benefits of cryotherapy may include:
- Reduced need for pain medication
- Increased range of motion due to less swelling
- Shorter recovery times
- Better patient compliance with an easy, comfortable system
- Flexibility provided by portable treatment solution
Circumferential wraps that conform to the body provide more coverage than an ice pack and without the risks associated with whole-body chambers and ice baths. Some cryotherapy systems, such as Game Ready, allow you to treat two patients at a time, maximizing your clinic space. The portable units are also easy to stow and take up much less space than a whole-body chamber or ice bath.