Chilling Your Pain Away: The Best Cold Therapy Machine for Recovery
Remember in high school when we got hurt and went to see the infirmary or secretary for treatment?
What was the first thing they would do…? APPLY ICE. The answer has always been in front of us…we were just too blinded to see.
Cold therapy is a great way to recover in general, whether it is for post-surgery, pain relief, or after a tough workout.
You may have heard about full-body cold therapy such as ice baths (with water chillers), cryotherapy, etc. But there is another way to use cold for good, and that is regional cold therapy.
And in that world, the cold therapy machine is by far the best way to get it done!
So welcome to my ultimate guide for the best cold therapy machine you can buy!
My Top 3 Picks
What Is A Cold Therapy Machine?
A cold therapy machine is a device that is built to send controlled and regular cold water to a specific area of the body via tubes and pads.
The user puts the pad on the body. There are pads designed to go on:
The device has a container that you fill with water and ice, and via the tubes, it sends this water to the pads, which then distributes it evenly in the area of your choice.
Just like a water chiller for an ice bath, some cold therapy machines cool water down on their own.
The idea behind a cold therapy machine is an easy way to apply ice to a part of the body without the hassle of ice packs and awkward positioning.
They are also recommended by doctors, as we will see later in the review.
The 5 Best Cold Therapy Machines
1. Vive Cold Therapy Machine (Best for Recovery)
The Vive is the most consistent cold therapy unit out there.
Its simplistic design and key features make it a great choice for those who seek relief from pain management, discomfort, or soreness from workouts or exercising.
Its large and flexible pad can cover multiple muscle groups at once…making it a very convenient choice.
Said pads cover arms, legs, shoulders, hips, knees, and lower back.
I own this unit and I do recommend athletes use it.
LED screen on the machine for clear indications on refills.
Leak-proof lid system.
Can hold up to six liters of ice water.
5 rates of continuous flow.
Dimple pad surface for great distribution of ice water on muscles.
Very user-friendly and clear instructions and support.
A safe machine as it automatically stops after 30 minutes if you fall asleep.
Great for reducing pain and everyday use.
Can only go for 30 minutes, which is recommended but some people wish to use it for more time.
The starting price of the Vive Cold Therapy Machine is $256,99.
2. Breg VPulse (Best Post-Surgery)
The VPulse cold therapy device from Breg is a great unit for post-operation treatment, even arguably the best.
Saving you hundreds of hospital bills, this unit lets you recover from surgery with the mix of compression from the pads and constant cold from its big reservoir.
This ice machine has 3 forms of therapy:
Rapid Impulse Calf Compression to minimize Deep Vein Thrombosis (A blood clot in the leg that can cause serious damage if not treated well).
Motorized Cold Therapy (for discomfort and inflammation).
Wound Compression (to help reduce post-operation inflammation).
The reservoir is pretty big and it allows you to fill it with water as well as ice cubes for colder temperatures.
3 types of therapy for more versatility.
Can reduce hospital stays
3 therapy options are amazing.
The Breg VPulse cost $549,70.
3. Aircast Cryo Cuff Cold Therapy System (Best Budget)
The Aircast Cryo Cuff Cold Therapy System is a popular choice for athletes and individuals recovering from sports injuries.
The CryoCuff IC provides both gravity and motorized cold and compression therapy.
A gravity cooler system is where you need to raise the cooler in order for the cold water to get to the pad, while motorized cold therapy is when it does it automatically with the help of a motor.
This machine combines cold therapy with compression, providing an all-in-one solution for pain relief and swelling reduction.
2 types of therapy
Can hold water and ice for up to eight hours.
Lightweight design, you can take it anywhere.
Very light (Weight without water is 2 kg).
Great price compared to other cold therapy units.
Assembly is simple.
The gravitational system might feel complicated for some.
Braces are sold separately.
It is one of the cheapest cold therapy devices on this list, going at around $128.
4. Breg Polar Care Wave
Studies have shown that cold therapy machines work better with dynamic compression, and the Breg Polar Care Wave does that brilliantly.
It comes with very useful accessories included such as ice packs, knee Y adapters for better knee usage, and a hose management system for better storage.
Its simplicity and effectiveness make it a great option for reducing pain.
Great for post-surgery swelling and recovery, as well as normal recovery for athletes. It can replace your ice baths for targeted areas, or if you have time for a quick recovery session.
Filter Cap reservoir technology for optimized temperature ranges.
Optimizable yet very simple system.
Comes with accessories for a better experience.
Very useful accessories included.
The reservoir technology may make it less cold than other therapy machines.
Cold pads are sold separately.
The Breg Polar Care Wave is valued at $229 without pads.
5. Ossur Cold Rush Therapy System
The Ossur Cold Rush Therapy System is known for its whisper-quiet operation and continuous cold therapy.
You would typically use this machine for post-surgical, trauma pain management or swelling.
This is one of the most complete ice therapy machines out there with a consistent and silent motor.
Not only can it go for a long time but for a consistent cold time as well (which is key since some companies claim to go long, but their temperature quickly goes up).
The Cold Rush unit offers excellent temperature control and even comes with different pad options to fit various body parts. It can go for up to six hours.
Strong and silent system for a quieter experience.
Lightweight design so you can carry it anywhere.
Insulated walls for improved cooling.
Compression is available as well
Pads are sold separately and are sold by body parts, meaning you must get one pad for the ankle and one for the knee, etc…
The ice therapy machine alone is $159. Pads cost more.
6. Polar Active Ice 3.0
The Polar Active Ice 3.0 is a popular cold water therapy machine known for its efficiency and user-friendliness.
It has a timer to time your cold therapy session and has a 5-foot tube for more freedom while using it.
It comes with a quiet, high-capacity pump that delivers cold water through a comfortable pad. The pad is a universal cold therapy pad, meaning you can use it on all body parts.
It has a large reservoir where you can put up to frozen water bottles.
This machine is highly recommended for post-operative recovery and injury management such as knee surgery or a bad shoulder injury.
Custom programmable timer
On and off cycle per doctor recommendations.
Very comfortable pad.
Safe if ever you fall asleep or forget to turn it off (the timer does it for you).
Has more reservoir space than other cold therapy machines.
Quiet motor…no annoying sound when using it!
Light enough to carry
The straps are made of velcro, meaning they might unstrap if not careful.
The Polar Active Ice is priced around $219,99.
The Advantages of Using A Cold Therapy Machine
Effective Pain Relief
One of the primary benefits of cold therapy machines is their effectiveness in pain relief. Cold therapy has always been praised as a great way to recover, whether it is from pain or surgery.
A cold therapy machine is effective because it targets the area just right, and delivers the constant cold you need to heal.
Inflammation is a natural response to injury, but excessive inflammation can hinder healing and cause pain. Cold therapy helps to reduce inflammation, allowing your body to heal more efficiently.
By promoting reduced inflammation and increased blood flow after the initial constriction, cold therapy machines can significantly speed up the recovery process.
As mentioned before, the constant cold delivered to a targetted area is key to effective recovery, and hence faster.
The only other way to effectively distribute cold to an area is through an ice bath, but not everybody can afford to immerse in cold water every day.
No Mess or Discomfort
Ice packs have been very popular, but not very effective. There are many challenges of using an ice pack, whether it is not being able to reach deep areas of the body, the ice being too cold to apply, etc.
An ice therapy machine, on the other hand, is equipped with pads to target specific areas, and the temperature is controlled by you.
Types of Cold Therapy Machines
There are two types of cold therapy machines, each catering to different needs and preferences.
1. Cold Water Therapy Machines
These machines circulate cold water through a pad or wrap that you apply to the injured or targeted area. They are known for maintaining a consistent temperature, and some models even have adjustable temperature settings.
They are best used for pain relief or recovery after a workout.
2. Compression Cold Therapy Machines
These machines combine cold therapy with compression, which can further reduce swelling and improve blood circulation.
They are excellent for post-surgery recovery and sports injuries.
You can also combine hot and cold therapy for extra relief. Some of these machines may provide this option.
The best way to combine the two is with an ice bath and a sauna, and going back and forth between the two…but that is a topic for another time.
I am a great fan of cold therapy, and the fact that we have machines now for a better experience is amazing to me. I used to struggle with the standard ice packs and their inconvenience.
Be careful when purchasing these products and do not use them more than the recommended time. And always…ALWAYS ask a professional if you are unsure about anything.
With that being said, happy recovery everybody!