The shoulder, being a major joint in the body, is extremely complicated. Some parts are quite large, and some are extremely small. It is made up of a complex network of bone, cartilage, muscle, blood vessels and more that help it do various tasks. We use our shoulders frequently for tasks both small and large, and so they can become damaged and inflamed after an injury or overuse. Treating an injured shoulder is of utmost importance if we want to resume with our day-to-day activities.
One such treatment to help the shoulder recover is by using an ice therapy machine.
Ice therapy machines apply the same principles of cryotherapy, and they are useful in providing pain and joint relief for the shoulder. The primary reason for using cryotherapy in treating acute injuries is to lower the temperature of the injured tissue. With cryotherapy, the tissue’s metabolic rate decreases, allowing the tissue to survive the period following the injury.
Using static compression along with cryotherapy is recommended by therapists as effective techniques in taking care of acute injuries. The primary reason for using compression is to increase external pressure on the tissue to prevent edema formation (swelling).
But should you invest in an ice therapy machine? Read on below to discover what we think and recommend:
Benefits of having an ice therapy machine
They help reduce swelling following an injury
Swelling is a natural reaction of bodily tissues to damage and is designed to help the body recover. However, it can often interfere with modern medical treatments and it is also painful. Ice therapy machines, especially those designed specially for shoulders, can help the muscles cool down and thus reduce its amount of swelling and prevent further damage. It also helps in easing off pressure on other parts of the shoulder, giving more space for your body to heal.
They help provide pain relief
What causes pain during swelling is the compression of nerves in the area of the injury. As the swelling reduces, the body recovers faster, and the muscles on the shoulder regain their flexibility, no longer rubbing or grinding against themselves. A specialized ice therapy machine designed for the shoulders may help in reducing the pain.
They assist in speeding up your recovery
When used properly, an ice therapy machine can make the shoulder injury recovery phase shorter. By combining better pain relief with reduced swelling, you can give your body the time it needs to properly fix the damage without causing further irritation or injury.
How does a cold therapy machine reduce inflammation?
The most common and immediate way to deal with an injury through the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Applying the traditional RICE therapy after an injury will help reduce pain and inflammation. A common way of applying the RICE therapy is through the use of an ice bag or a bag of frozen peas. Leaving the frozen bog on the injury numbs the pain. However, bags of ice or peas can be messy or inconvenient, and the condensation from the bag can lead to infection of wounded areas. Nowadays, there are more options to apply cold therapy and the techniques have progressed since the days of ice bags.
The science behind cold therapy machines
Cold therapy machines promote healing and reduce inflammation by combining two critical aspects of the RICE method (ice and compression) into one cold therapy unit. An ice therapy machine uses a pad that can be wrapped on the injured part of the body and is secured with a strap. The pad is connected to a water tank through a tube. Cold water runs through the tubing from the tank to the pad. The rate at which the water passes to the pad can also be set. Although a cold therapy machine is not portable, it is still reliable in providing constant cold to the muscles and relieving inflammation and pain.
So how exactly does an ice therapy machine help to reduce pain and inflammation? The extremely cold therapy provided by the machine numbs the nerve endings and reduces their sensitivity, slowing down the communication between your brain and your body, thus causing you to feel less pain from your injury.
Cold therapy machines also help in slowing down cellular metabolism and cell activity, which also slows down the cycle of cell death. This helps the inflamed tissues survive the injury and reduces the need for further repair. Cold therapy machines also promote “hunting response”, which is the alternating dilation and constriction of blood vessels. This helps reduce cellular metabolism and increases the delivery of freshly oxygenated blood and nutrients.
How is an ice therapy machine different from ice, gel packs or a bag of frozen vegetables?
Ice, gel packs and frozen vegetables generally administer intense cold over a small, superficial area and only sustain cold temperatures for a short period of time, requiring frequent replacement trips to the freezer. The intense low temperatures of these options can also cause ice burn to sensitive skin, incision sites and areas that have compromised blood flow.
Ice therapy machines deliver continuous moderated cold water through joint-specific cooling pads. These pads are clinically optimised to function at safe temperatures for prolonged periods of time allowing for the cold temperatures to deeply penetrate the application area. Ice therapy machines will typically maintain their cold temperatures for six to eight hours between ice changes.
Now that we know all the benefits, we need to remember that the usage of ice therapy machines are best used along with consultations and treatments by your trusted medical professionals, including doctors and physiotherapists.
To answer the question of whether an ice shoulder machine is worth the investment, we’d say that it is a good machine to have if only for its specialized features alone, such as having customizable settings to control the flow of water. However, all the fancy features do not make much of a difference compared to simpler cooling devices. Furthermore, ice therapy machines can also take up too much space, especially when packing them up for traveling.
Got a question or anything I can help with? My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at Gelpacks.com. You can drop me a line here. Good luck