Updated: Jan 2
Cold therapy can help you recover from an injury, surgery, or workout. What features should you look for in the best cold therapy machines? Read on to find out.
9 Best Cold Therapy Machines for Speedy Recovery
Whether you’re healing from an injury, surgery, or a difficult workout, cold therapy machines can help speed your recovery and get you back on your feet faster. Plus, these machines offer a wide variety of benefits, from boosting the immune system to reducing inflammation—all of which can help expedite the healing process. There are a lot of options on the market and sifting through them all can be confusing. What features matter most? Use the following guide to choose the best cold therapy machines for your needs.
What Is a Cold Therapy Machine?
Cold therapy machines are devices that deliver cold therapy via a wrap or pad to certain areas of your body to relieve aches, pains, and minimize swelling. The machines can be either motorized or non-motorized. They’re also referred to as cryotherapy machines or ice therapy machines.
You’ve likely used an ice pack to treat a sore or swollen area. Doctors and fitness trainers often recommend cold therapy via ice packs. The problem with ice packs is that they melt quickly, which means you need to have multiple on hand and keep them in rotation to really get the full effects. Cold therapy machines are an answer to this issue. They deliver consistent cold therapy to the area for optimal healing—no running back and forth to the freezer.
Studies have also proven the effectiveness and usefulness of using a cryotherapy ice machine. Researchers found that patients recovering from knee surgery experienced equal results when using ice packs and ice therapy machines with physical therapy. However, those using cold therapy devices reported feeling more satisfied with the cold therapy and used cold therapy more consistently than those relying on ice packs. [*]
How Does a Cold Therapy Machine Work?
Cold therapy machines work in conjunction with a pad or wrap that you can apply to the affected part of your body. The wrap circulates cold water via a hose that is connected to the main device which houses an ice reservoir.
In your body, the cold temperatures reduce nerve activity by slowing blood flow to the area. This decreases inflammation and swelling. Unlike an ice pack, a cold therapy machine can deliver ice therapy to your entire injury, as the wrap can go all the way around your arm, leg, or other affected area.
What Are the Benefits of Using Ice Therapy Machines?
Cold therapy machines can speed up your recovery or offer effective pain management if you suffer from a more chronic condition. They do this via a variety of benefits, including:
Relieves pain by numbing the nerves
There’s evidence that ice therapy can help treat headaches and migraines when applied to the neck. [*] Cold temperatures also cause physiological hormonal responses, releasing mood-boosting chemicals like adrenaline and endorphins. As such, evidence suggests that cold therapy can help positively affect mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. [*]
There are a few key benefits when comparing ice therapy machines to cold packs. As we’ve discussed, cold packs melt quickly, so you have to refreeze them and have multiple on hand if you want to keep continuous cold on a certain body part. Meanwhile, ice therapy machines can last for up to 12 hours, delivering consistent cold. The therapeutic cold temperatures last long and penetrate deeper than with an ice pack. Plus, targeted cold therapy can cover your entire body.
Best Ice Therapy Machines Picks
The Ossur Cold Rush Therapy Machine is one of the most portable and compact options, making it one of the best cold therapy machines. It weighs in at just 4.6 pounds and measures 16.2 by 12.2 by 10 inches. It also has one of the highest ice-to-water ratios, so it will last up to six hours despite being so small. Even if you’re at a higher elevation, this cold therapy machine offers consistent cooling and compression.
Four power settings
Three elasticized straps
Nine different pad options for different body parts
Quiet thanks to the brushless motor
Locking lid to avoid spills
Quiet, lightweight, compact, and easily transportable.
Tends to develop condensation in and around the tube.
The Arctic Ice is one of the best cold therapy machines in terms of value. It’s affordable and provides hospital-grade cold therapy. It includes both a high and low setting, as well as a helpful auto shut-off feature to ensure you don’t risk any additional injuries. Plus, it comes with a 90-day warranty.
Foam-insulated 52-inch hose
15-minute timed increments or continuous treatment
Universal wrap can treat most areas
Auto shut-off setting
Compact size at 11.5 by 13.5 by 9.5 inches
Use one pad to treat multiple areas, set it and forget it with auto shut-off.
Only five hours of cold therapy at a time.
The Polar Products Cold Therapy System sets itself apart by providing a hand-held controller. That means no bending over to adjust the settings on your cold therapy machines. You can simply attach it to your body and relax, modifying the settings via the controller from where you’re most comfortable. This is especially important if you have an injury or are recovering from surgery - the less you move and agitate the area, the better.
30-minute increments or continuous therapy
Knee pad with velcro belts
15-quart cooling reservoir for up to 10 hours of cooling
Wheels and handle for easy transport
No need to unplug the system from the wall thanks to the on/off switch. The long-lasting large reservoir can fit 12 frozen water bottles.
Resembles a vintage cooler, which you might find visually unappealing. Heavier than most, weighing in at 10 pounds.
The Vive Cold Therapy Machine is one of the most visually appealing, with a smart design and great overall performance. You can easily see the ice and cold water guide, so it’s easy to fill up. It also has a large digital display and simple controls. All of these features make for a straightforward experience that anyone can manage and enjoy.
Universal cold therapy pad for arms, shoulders, knees, ankles, and hips
Five rates of continuous flow cycles
Handle for easy transport
5-foot foam-insulated tube
Offers a highly personalized experience with five different cycle times of 30 minutes or less. The digital display is easy to read and the cold therapy machine itself is quiet and compact.
The cold therapy machine weighs 9.85 pounds which is heavier than most.
Unlike the above cold therapy units, the Aircast is a gravity-fed system. That means there’s no motor, so there’s also no sound. It sends cold water to a cryo-cuff via a tube using gravity. There are two options - a cuff for the foot and ankle, or a wrap for the knee, so it’s best for these types of injuries.
Foot or knee cuff
Soundless gravity-fed system
Up to 8 hours of cryotherapy
Universal fit can be worn on the left or right leg/foot
Anatomically designed to prevent the possibility of tissue damage
Small, compact cooler weighing in at just 2.20 pounds with a handle for portability. Provides therapy for up to eight hours. Best for sports injuries.
Only works for knee, ankle, or foot injuries.
6) LEONNS Cold Therapy Unit
The LEONNS Cold Therapy Machine is one of the easiest to use, with a built-in timer so you can set a session time of up to 30 minutes. It includes five different flow rate settings so you can customize each cryotherapy session to your exact needs. It also has a clear basin so you can easily fill it to capacity, as well as digital controls. Plus, it monitors the temperature and alerts you when the temperature isn’t optimal.
Universal therapy pad for shoulder, knee, ankle, or lumbar care
3 adjustable securing straps
5-foot insulation tube
One year warranty
The universal pad fits most areas of concern with a snug fit for consistent therapy delivery. The settings are easy to use and understand.
No continuous cycle. If you want a session longer than 30 minutes, you have to press the start button again. The cold therapy machine is on the heavier end at 10.4 pounds.
This water therapy system is a bit different from the others because it provides both hot and cold therapy. There’s a simple temperature dial to switch between cold and hot therapy, as well as a power switch and heater switch. It also comes with a convenient automatic shut-off feature at one hour.
Universal wrap with velcro strap
Timed increments or continuous treatment
30-day money-back guarantee
5 hours of use
Offers both cold and hot therapy via a universal wrap that can serve a variety of issues. Elastic bands provide additional compression.
Some users report issues with cooling and leaking. Five hours of cold therapy is less than other machines offer.
The NEHOO cold therapy machine provides three different flow rate systems. It allows you to set it for increments of 30 minutes to two hours, as well as a continuous flow setting. With a brushless DC motor, it’s super quiet. It also has an easy-to-use control panel that displays the time and temperature so you can monitor your cold therapy at a glance.
7.55 pound unit with handle for portability
3 flow rate settings
Incremental or continuous use options
Universal pad and elastic straps
Quiet, relatively light, and has a convenient control panel.
The 7-quart container is smaller than some of the others, which means less overall cool time.
This cold therapy machine makes the list for its ease of use and long run time. It includes a digital screen on which you can choose between four programs - 20, 30, and 60-minute timers or a continuous run setting. It has an extra-large 9-quart reservoir that allows for up to 12 hours of use. The cool pad is only meant for joints, so it works best for knees and elbows. It uses a 3-strap system to ensure a snug fit.
Knee or elbow therapy pad with three straps
Incremental or continuous treatment
Quiet pump and a longer-than-average tube. 12-hour run time allows you to use cold therapy overnight.
On the more expensive end of the spectrum at about $200.
Add an Ice Therapy Machine to Your Home Today
Most people can benefit from an ice therapy machine. Whether you're an avid runner or weight lifter, chances are you deal with joint pain, sore muscles, and more.
Likewise, you might suffer from chronic pain or joint pain from an injury. If you're recovering from surgery, your doctor will likely recommend an ice therapy system, as well. They're great for post-surgery swelling.
Regardless of your reasoning, a cold therapy unit can decrease pain, reduce swelling, and reduce inflammation. They're also a great natural, medication-free option for pain management and post-surgery recovery.
Most importantly, the best ice therapy machine is one that you use consistently. Be sure to choose one that you can easily use, like those listed above, so that you don't hesitate to reach for it next time you're looking to reduce pain.
Comment below on which cold therapy unit is best for you and why.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site, including text, graphics, images, and other material, is provided solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your specific condition.