Surgery causes tissue trauma which leads to inflammation and pain. Cryotherapy or the use of cold in a therapeutic setting, is important for post-operative recovery to decrease swelling and pain.
The use of external pressure decreases swelling by preventing the accumulation of fluid. Icing decreases the metabolism of tissue and decreases blood flow, in turn decreasing inflammation. With the use of a cold therapy unit you gain the benefit of both ice and compression with the addition of ease of application.
Cooling units are electrical units that consist of a chamber, tubing and pads. The chamber is filled with ice and water then attached to the pad via the tubing. The pads, which are specific to the body site (shoulder, knee, hip, ankle, back), are velcroed on to provide static compression and continuous cryotherapy. They are easy to apply and portable, therefore can be brought into the hospital for overnight stay (arthroplasty) surgery or immediately post op for day care surgery (arthroscopy). These units can be used during the initial post-operative for continuous therapy as well as in the rehab phase for post physiotherapy/exercise icing.
Cryotherapy has been shown to significantly improve pain, reduce pain medication use and improve sleep after surgery. For example, studies strongly support its use after ACL reconstruction, arthroscopic shoulder surgery as well as joint replacement surgery.
When using these devices it is important to follow the instructions carefully to ensure the unit is used correctly and the pads should NEVER be applied directly to the skin to avoid injury.
The majority of extended benefits programs cover a good portion of these devices. Please contact your surgeon’s assistant if you are interested in obtaining a cooling unit to help in your post-operative recovery.