After spending 19 hours on research, surveys, crowdsourcing, and a good amount of hands-on-testing over the course of 4 weeks, we believe that the Ossur Cold Rush Cold Therapy System is the best out of all the machines we tested. We had firsthand experience on how effective it was at consistently delivering chilled water over the injured area. We believe that using this machine will make a huge difference when you’re recovering from a surgery or severe injury. It will definitely aid your sleeping habits since its pain relief is almost instant which means having to take in less medication that promotes a more natural and pain-free recovery. 

Are you tired of the post-surgery pain, or do you have joint soreness from sports/running/lifting? I don't know about everyone else, but I just find ice packs annoying. Apply for 20 minutes, remove for 20 minutes, and then go to reapply 20 minutes later - no way your freezer has made that pack is cold again (unless it's cranked way up).

There's been a really interesting product that I've only recently found out about - cold therapy machines provide a constant stream of cold water that work better than ice packs almost always warm up the longer they are used. And on top of that (like I mentioned), they take way too long to get cold again! 

​​​​We believe that you, as a patient who has had a traumatic experience, should suffer no more and only get the best cold therapy machine out there.

We want only what’s best for you and that’s what we’re here for.

So sit back, relax, and let us tell you which cold therapy machine is the best.

How Does a Cold Therapy Machine Work?

Cold therapy machines are a step up from the traditional ice pack and static compression. It supplies active compression and therapeutic cold to your injury which helps you recover faster.

Cold therapy machines continuously circulate cold water by means of an ice reservoir. As your injury warms the water flowing through the machine, cold water is carried in to supplant it. This will consistently provide the same cool temperature needed throughout the treatment.

With traditional ice packs, sometimes covering a whole injured area will be difficult. Cold therapy machines are specially designed to solve this type of problem. It has wraps to provide cold therapy to your entire joint and it conforms to your body because it covers more surface area.

What You Need to Consider Before Buying a Cold Therapy Machine?

We know that recovering from a serious surgery or injury is more of a waiting game than anything. And that there’s nothing you want to do more than move like you used to and wish for your recovery to be quick, safe, and effective

That’s why you’re here wanting to know what the best cold therapy machine is. We understand your worries and we’re here to take the burden of having to spend hours of research off of your shoulders.

We have listed a few criteria you should be considering before choosing your first cold therapy machine.

1. Quality

It’s a good idea to consider choosing a higher quality machine that will deliver a more effective treatment which will help accelerate your recovery. Another plus is that higher quality machines tend to last longer than their cut-rate counterparts.

Good quality cold therapy machines are able to regulate and maintain the right therapeutic temperature throughout your treatment. You will gain long lasting benefits without any risk of worsening your injury. 

2. Noise

The typical duration of a cold therapy treatment is around 3 to 4 hours a day for 4 to 4 weeks following a serious injury or surgery. You can opt for more if your injury is severe enough to merit treatment all through the night.

Sleeping will be difficult if your machine is too loud. And if you choose to do the treatment during the day, it will be hard to concentrate on your tasks with a noisy machine. 

3. Wrap Vs. Pad

If you have an injured joint, consider picking a machine with a wrap attachment instead of a pad. A wrap attachment covers more surface area allowing better exposure and a more functional treatment.

This is because wraps deliver the cold to every surface of the damaged area above and below penetrating deeper and more evenly to reach your injured tissues more effectively.

4. Running Time

It would be a good idea to choose a model that is capable of running for a good amount of time. Especially if your injury requires treatment throughout the night. 

How We Assessed and Evaluated These Products

Our cold therapy machine hunt began by visiting all the clinics we could find in a 30 mile radius. We also visited about 8 different pharmacies to determine which products were widely available to buyers in the local market.

As we had initially expected, there were a lot of different cold therapy machines out there and each had various features, capacity, and target areas. In all honesty, we were quite overwhelmed.

We pursued narrowing the list down by establishing the common buying criteria based on feedbacks we gathered from family, friends, readers, and colleagues.

The criteria we established were quality, noise, running time, durability, power usage, portability, and type of attachment.

Following the criteria established, we then rated each of the 12 cold therapy machines we had on our list eliminating some brands that had a lot of negative feedbacks. Then we directed our assessment to narrowing the top 5 among the 12 candidates.

We made sure that our top 5 were not based on the price nor the product that had the most features. We selected the machines that had all the necessary features you’ll need for treatment like quality, specs, and performance.

Other key factors were also considered. Each product’s qualitative and quantitative aspects were carefully re-evaluated so that we were sure of the machines that made it to our top 5.

Our Top Picks

Ossur Cold Therapy Machine

Click on the image to view product on Amazon

The Ossur Kit Cold Rush w/ Universal Pad is the quietest among the motorized products we tested. It’s also lightweight and compact, weighing only 4.6 lbs (2.1 kg).

It proved to be an effective and soothing treatment for reducing post-operative pain and swelling. It’s also designed to produce less heat transfer from the motor to the water to ensure cold therapy pain relief for up to 6 continuous hours.

The machine provides consistent cooling and excellent compression. We found that the Universal pad is great for any use. It is designed to deliver continuous cold therapy to all joints, your back, or even your hand. However, some reviewers who are larger find that it doesn't fit for their shoulders and hips. 

Some reviewers complained it wasn’t cold enough for their liking (but you don’t want it to be too cold because that can cause frostbite and damage to delicate skin tissue). There were other complaints about the connectors needing to be replaced, but we didn't experience that issue.

A quick tip - always check the tubing for pinches especially at times when you move a lot. Pinching or slight twisting will cause the machine to stop delivering cold water to your injured area. 

What We Liked

  • Fairly quiet with its 30 decibel brush-less motor
  • Comes with a universal pad so it can be used for all areas
  • Compact and super lightweight

What We Didn't Like

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    If you are a larger-than-average person, the universal pad may not work for your shoulder or hip
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    Some reviewers complained it wasn’t cold enough 
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    Some people have reported that the tubing will condensate and sweat
Aircast Cooler

Click on the image to view product on Amazon

Our second favorite is the Aircast Cryo/Cuff Cold Therapy Cooler. At about $100 less than our top choice (when factoring in cost of wrap purchased separately), this is  the less expensive option for those on a budget.

It uses a non-motorized, gravity-fed system which is an integrated approach to cold therapy that provides cold and focal compression. Since it doesn't have a motor/moving parts, it's less likely to have breaks or mechanical issues. But without a motor, you would need to move the cooler higher than affected region and then lower (image one and image two if not sure what I mean). This isn't a deal breaker, just less of a set-it-and-forget-it product like the Ossur.

Another reason this wasn't our top choice is because there isn't a universal pad that you can purchase to go with the Aircast Cooler. If you want to use it on more than one area of your body, you would need to purchase multiple wraps (links below). There have also been reports online of issues with connectors and plastic bag leaking.

This item is only the cooler only, wraps are sold separately. Here's a few wraps (cooler sold separately) you can purchase:

What We Liked

  • Less expensive than the top pick
  • Extremely easy to set-up and use
  • Less likely to have any mechanical issues

What We Didn't Like

  • No universal pad available for purchase
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    Gravity-fed to you need to move it around sometimes
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    Have seen reports online of leakage issues with connectors and plastic bag
Active Ice 3 Cold Therapy

Click on the image to view product on Amazon

The Polar Active Ice 3.0 Universal Therapy System is designed for use on any part of the body that needs focused cold therapy. The universal cold therapy bladder is held in place with a 3” x 44” elastic and Velcro belt. Specifically designed for post-surgery, when serious pain relief is required.

It is a reliable and user-friendly therapy system. Easy to use, simply add water and ice to the cooler. It has disconnecting couplings that allow flexibility and can be relocated easily if need be. Optional adjustable temperature flow control is available. Conveniently, it has an automobile power adaptor and Lithium-ion battery options for portability.

The system comes with a digital timer and on/off switch. The timer defaults to 30 minutes as a safety feature but can be increased by 30-minute increments. Some users complained about having to reset the timer every 30 minutes but again, you shouldn’t be using it for more than 30 minutes at a time.

What We Liked

  • Includes electronic digital timer so you know when to remove
  • Comes with a universal pad so it can be used for all areas

What We Didn't Like

  • Motor has a humming noise that can get annoying
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    Some users complained about having to reset the timer every 30 minutes 

4. Cryotherapy Arctic Ice Cold Water Therapy

Cryo Arctic Ice Therapy

Click on the image to view product on Amazon

The last cold therapy machine on our list is the Cryotherapy Arctic Ice Cold Water Therapy machine.

It can provide up to 7 hours of continuous cryotherapy, includes a timer so you can use it in increments or you can turn off the timer and set-up for continuous use (though I would say you should definitely take breaks every 15-20 minutes).

It is also easy to set-up and use. It can be used from the earliest stages of post-operative recovery, through rehabilitation, to post-recovery home use for the treatment of chronic pain of any body part. The system is available with various therapy pads that fit around any body part or joint to treat soreness, pain, or discomfort. Although they don’t currently sell the machine with universal pad together, I think the large back pad would work for most people.

There are some drawbacks that we've seen. Some testers complained about the reservoir being small which will cause the ice to melt faster and reduce the time the water stays cold. There were also some reports of breaking after just a few weeks and no responses from the company.

What We Liked

  • Includes a timer
  • Extremely easy to set-up and use

What We Didn't Like

  • Universal pad currently not available
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    Small reservoir compared to other machines reviewed
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    Reports of machine breaking and no reply from company

Final Thoughts

Editor's Pick: Ossur Cold Rush Cold Therapy System

I think the Ossur cold therapy machine was the clear winner. It’s a patient favorite with its holistic design, durable (yet extremely quiet) motor, and robust flow rate. We tried it, we tested it, and this machine did not disappoint. It helps more than any normal ice pack, is more convenient, and the relief is extremely quick and continuous.

Less Expensive Pick: Aircast Cryo/Cuff Cold Therapy Cooler (cooler only - wraps sold separately)

The Aircast Cryo/Cuff Cold Therapy Cooler is an inexpensive, yet still great, alternative to our top pick. It's easy to set-up and use, lightweight, and you know you won't have any mechanical issues since it's gravity-fed. If you're looking for a product that's relatively inexpensive and still packs a punch, look no further.

Alternative Products/Posts

If you were looking for something cheap, we've reviewed the cheaper alternative - ice packs. Here's a list and links: