When it comes to recovery, cold therapy can help patients heal faster and get back to active with less risk.
For decades, medical professionals and researchers have dedicated their time to help figure out the best way to help patients manage post-operative pain. Unfortunately, one of the most common solutions—prescription opioids—can come with a bevy of side effects, including the risk of addiction.
One of the most effective ways patients can reduce their pain and heal faster is through cold compression therapy. While icing might seem like an elementary concept; the far-reaching benefits of cold therapy have been proven by medical research to help alleviate pain and discomfort.
Why Cold Compression Therapy Works
On a physiological level, cold therapy works by constricting the blood vessels, which in turn reduces swelling and inflammation to make someone less sensitive to pain. Cold therapy can also help reduce the size of bruising by slowing down blood flow to an injured area. The application of cold may also help with preventing tissue damage caused by hypoxia, due to the decrease in the soft tissue’s metabolism. Blood flow and swelling can also be reduced via compression. By adding compression to the affected area, swelling is displaced and spread out where it can be processed by the lymphatic system through healthy tissue more effectively. Together, cold and compression can improve the reduction in temperature and swelling to help reduce pain and improve recovery times.
With the dangerous opioid epidemic occurring in the U.S. right now, any strategy that can reduce someone’s dependence on painkillers following surgery is a step in the right direction. With dependency as a major concern, prescription opioids can also hinder a patient’s physical and mental performance, not to mention lead to unwanted side effects like constipation, depression and a weakened immune system.
For patients with depression, opioids are particularly problematic. In fact, research published in The Clinical Journal of Pain found that patients with depression who were prescribed opioids were twice as likely to transition to long-term use.
Opioids can lead to depression in patients who previously had no history of it, as they can cause changes in someone’s brain activity and hormone levels. A St. Louis University study looked at over 100,000 patients who were prescribed opioids and found that 9 to 12 percent of them developed new-onset depression after using opioids for one month.
Opioids can also inhibit one’s mental and physical processing. If a patient is hoping to return to work or athletic activity as soon as possible following surgery, avoiding opioids and opting for cold compression therapy and over-the-counter pain relievers instead will help them safely return to activity more quickly.
How to Use Cold Compression Therapy
One of the most popular ways to reduce swelling and pain following surgery or injury is using the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). But oftentimes, a homemade ice pack will not be effective enough for the icing component of this strategy.
If a patient is recovering from surgery that was done in a hard-to-reach spot, such as the ankle, knee, shoulder, hip or back, effectively icing the area can be challenging. The ice pack might slip off, or the patient might not be able to reach the affected area. The Lake Effect Wrap and SnoPack use cold compression therapy and direct-stick technology to adhere to the stabilizing wrap to help a patient keep cold compression on the area for up to four hours.
Using cold compression can help patients reduce pain, lower opioid dependence and get back in the game faster. We’d call that a win-win-win.
At its core, Graymont Medical is committed to putting the patient first. This means offering products, services, and solutions that help get patients back to their daily lives as quickly as possible following a medical procedure. Hospitals, physicians and other health care providers interested in obtaining any of Graymont Medical’s services or products, including the Cold Therapy Program, can contact Graymont Medical at graymontmedical.com/contact or (312) 291-9305.