Cold Therapy

Everything there is to know about cold therapy machines

A cold therapy machine is one of the medical devices that help with musculoskeletal problems and nerve damage. Even with pharmacotherapy, the recovery and treatment of pain and inflammation resulting from muscle or nerve stress can be very slow. This device shortens the recovery time from postoperative wounds, swelling, skin lesions, muscle sprains, and so on.

Cold therapy machines work through the use of low temperatures directly on the site of application. Although cryotherapy also has general body applications, the standard equipment works locally. These machines have component pads that wrap around the application site like joints, thighs, and so on, and iced water moves around the pad at a constant flow rate. A cold therapy machine is applicable in sports/fitness, too, for quick recovery from post-workout muscle aches. 

History of cryotherapy

Cryotherapy was first recorded among the Egyptians as far back as 2500BC. They utilized cold temperatures in treating some ailments. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, also wrote on the usefulness of cold therapy on pain, inflammation, and bleeding. For many centuries, the treatment was used in amputation and anesthetic procedures. 

The first cold therapy machine was developed in the mid-19th century by Dr. James Arnott. He prepared ice solutions that were used to manage tumors of the skin, breast, and cervix. He later developed an apparatus for the cryotherapy of acne and neuralgia disorders. Later, remarkable improvements occurred with the introduction of liquid nitrogen (at -196℃) around the 1950s. Subsequently, both liquid and solid carbon dioxide were also used for similar procedures. Whole-body cryotherapy procedures began with Dr. Yamaguchi in 1978 for the management of rheumatoid arthritis. The method yielded optimal positive outcomes and became a routine therapy. 

Modern cryosurgery also began in the 20th century through Cooper and Lee's efforts, who developed the first cryosurgical probe. Better probes were later designed, and cryotherapy made a big entry into sports and fitness through Olympic rehabilitation centers in the year of 2000. 

Indications to use cryotherapy equipment

A cold therapy machine is indicated for the treatment or management of several diseases. Cryotherapy decreases cellular metabolism, promotes local vasoconstriction, and attacks pain, spasms, and inflammation. The other potential benefits of cryotherapy include:

  • Better sleep pattern
  • Fast muscle and surgical recovery
  • Cellulite reduction and healthier skin complexion
  • Reduces stress or anxiety and invigorates the mind
  • Anti-aging benefits
  • Pain management due to impaired neuromuscular transmission 
  • Improves muscle fatigue
  • Reduction of fever
  • Helps with painful limitation of motion
  • Reduces spasticity caused by central nervous system disorders

The disease or medical conditions where some of the above benefits are beneficial, or a cold therapy machine is generally indicated, include the following:

  • First degree burns. This is minimal burn that results in damage to the first layer of the skin. The area of damage can be large and quite painful. Cryotherapy may be employed to ensure a smooth recovery and ease pain. 
  • Psoriasis. This is an immune disorder that causes red, itchy, and scaly patches on different human skin parts. The use of cold therapy machine can destroy/heal lesions and cause the resolution of plaques. 
  • Allergies. Cryotherapy blocks the production of histamine, eliminating all the consequent symptoms of allergy. It is an alternative remedy for most allergies. 
  • Heart attack. Therapeutic hypothermia is necessary shortly after a heart attack. The heart stops beating during a cardiac arrest when the blood flow to the organ is too low. This can lead to brain damage. Lowering body temperature immediately after a heart attack prevents various organ damages. 
  • Asthma. There is release energizing endorphins that are helpful in asthma management. It makes exercises easier and helps with muscle soreness. 
  • Hemorrhagic stroke. A cold therapy machine helps in reducing the spasticity of the leg muscles during hemiparesis. There is also post-stroke spasticity that is common in stroke survivors. This therapy can be employed for such relief too. 
  • Arthritis. Cryotherapy is of great help in managing pain and inflammation of arthritic patients. It has been reported to be useful in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and gouty diathesis.           
  • Neurodermatitis. This is a skin irritation disorder that causes an itch-scratch cycle, leaving thick leathery patches on the skin.
  • Menopause. With this therapy, hormonal imbalances are reduced to the barest minimum. There is also a reduction in hot flushes and improvement of overall post-menopausal health. 
  • Infertility. Cryopreservation of either spermatozoa or female eggs has been of great help in solving infertility in modern times. It makes conception possible whenever an individual wants it. It is also useful during in-vitro fertilization processes.
  • Hemorrhage. The therapy can be utilized for the management of some bleeding conditions. An example is postcoital bleeding.
  • Reactive hyperemia. A cold therapy machine is used to achieve reactive hyperemia. This is the transient increase in organ blood flow after a short period of ischemia. 
  • Fractures. The machine is also useful in treating restricted knee flexion due to lower extremity fractures, etc. 
  • Amputation. It reduces limb metabolism before amputation. 
  • Rehabilitation in osteoporosis 

Complications 

A cold therapy machine might be quite easy to use, but some potential complications can follow the procedure. The most common complications are local skin or nervous problems. Symptoms resembling peripheral neuropathy are quite common. These include numbness, tingling, neuropathic pain, and so on. 

There may also be local skin redness or irritation, which is temporary. Prolonged local therapy can affect the integrity of the skin. It can cause integumentary damage, and this is why local application rarely exceeds thirty minutes. 

Cardiovascular and respiratory vital signs get altered during whole body cryotherapy. The heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure should be closely monitored. 

Finally, when going into a cryo chamber, the skin and clothing should be dry. No device or jewelry should be taken inside. Contraindications to using a cold therapy machine include metal implants or pacemakers, respiratory illness, kidney disease, pediatric patients, bleeding disorders, hypertension, seizures, Raynaud's syndrome, etc.

General specifications 

Chambers for whole body cryotherapy operate at about -80℃ to -160℃. The maximum temperature varies around that range, amongst brands. The chamber could be a single/single room, double or triple. They are fixed, and a single chamber can be of sizes 1800mm × 1300mm, 1500mm × 1750mm, or up to 3300mm × 2200mm. 

The general specifications of a portable cold therapy machine are highlighted below:

  • Materials- durable composite, PVC, insulated foam tubing, stainless steel
  • Operating conditions- Temperature of 10 - 40℃ and relative humidity of 30 – 75% 
  • Storage/transport conditions- Temperature of 40 - 70℃ and relative humidity of 10 – 100% (non-condensing)
  • The atmospheric pressure of 700 – 1060hPa
  • Universal therapy pad can be up to 12 inches wide and 11 inches long for local therapy
  • Power input- 100 - 240V AC, 50 – 60Hz
  • Power output- 6vdc, maximum of 1 A

How a cold therapy machine works

These machines deliver freezing temperatures to the body/body parts. Cryostimulation requires the lowest temperatures (below -100℃). It is a procedure that induces a physiological reaction to cold. The cryogenic liquids or cryogensare also used to determine the operating temperatures. The cryogens include;

  • Wet cold - water and ice, 0 ° C
  • Damp cold - cold air with temperatures ranging -15 º C to -30 º C
  • Dry cold - vapors of liquefied gases; liquid nitrogen vapor at -196 °C and carbon dioxide vapor at -75 ºC

The portable machines for local applications typically contain an ice fill line and water fill line, which are to be filled respectively. The lids should be closed after filling. Using the device is easy. The insulated hose connection should be set up, and the therapy pad must be attached to the insulated hose. The power connection can then be set up while the pad is secured in position with the adjustable bands' aid. The flow rate and duration of therapy are selected using buttons on the device. The start button can then be used to commence the treatment.

Market Leaders

The following are the leading brands of cryo machines and chambers;

  • CRYO BOX- Cryo Box is a top manufacturer of cryo machines and chambers. The company was founded by a top German former Olympics athlete, Daniel Manz. 
  • JUKA- Juka is a Poland-based top manufacturer of cryogenic equipment. The company was founded in 1991, and it has a reputable portfolio all around the world. 
  • Cryo-B- This is another top manufacturer in Mexico. They make great cryo chambers and distribute globally.
  • MECOTEC- Mecotec Freezing Technology is Germany-based and provides excellent cryotherapy equipment.
  • CryoAction- This is a specialist manufacturer of cryo chambers for major sports franchises, spa, wellness facilities, gyms, hotels, and so on. They design, supply, install, and provide maintenance services for a branded cold therapy machine. 
  • Cryosense- This is a US-based excellent manufacturer of cryo machines.

Conclusion

A cold therapy machine offers great and non-invasive therapeutic benefits. Cryotherapy or cryosurgery is very useful when indicated. Over the years, the therapy has gained immense acceptance in the sports and wellness industry. Many sports centers and fitness facilities now recommend cold therapy machines for muscle rejuvenation and healing. 

The use of these devices in medicine is on a continual increase. The manufacturers develop cryosurgical equipment now and then.