Best Cold Therapy & Knee Ice Machines [Top 5 Picks]

By Walter J. Farrell | LIVING

On spending a grueling 19 hours of 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?

Tired of those sleepless nights when you just had to stay up all throughout the evening just to change your ice packs?

Are you tired of swallowing all of those pain medications?

If your injury has left you feeling drained and aching all over, then you’ve come to the right place.

We’re here to give you the best cold therapy machine based on hours of research and hands-on-testing.

​​​​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.

Best Cold Therapy Machine 2017

Product NameRunning TimeWeightDimensions 
Active Ice Therapy System 2.030 minutes5.5 lbs.16 x 9.5 x 8.5 inches
Ossur Cold Rush Cold Therapy System6 hours5 lbs.18 x 10 x 12 inches
Cryotherapy Arctic Ice Cold Water Therapy6 to 8 hours5.5 lbs. 14 x 14 x 10 inches
ARS Aqua Relief System7 to 8 hours6 lbs. W= 4 inches L= 6 inches
Aircast Non-Motorized Cryo Cuff Cold Therapy6 to 8 hours2.2 lbs.12.5 x 12.4 x 12 inches

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 Should I 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

1. Active Ice Therapy System 2.0 – 2nd Runner Up

We found this product to be quite satisfying. There’s a thin layer of cloth that protects the skin from the product which ensures maximum cooling without leaving the wrap in direct contact with our skin.

Although a bit noisy than the other machines on our list, after a few tests though, we were able to get used to the noise and doze off. We also found that laying on top of the pad puts too much pressure on the pump and will likely ruin it so that’s one important thing to take note of.

We tried it on one of our colleagues who recently had a knee replacement surgery (what were the odds?) and he said that it really helped with the pain and swelling.

There were also instances when we needed to level the machine to where we placed our cuff for the water to circulate successfully. But overall, we give it a thumbs up for having the capacity to do its job properly. 

What We Liked

  • Large ice reservoir with 9 quart cooler
  • plus
    Has an adjustable control for temperature flow 

What We Didn't Like

  • Some people have reported that the machine is noisy
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    There were a number of feedback that the cycle time runs for less than 30 minutes
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    Some were frustrated that they had to restart it every 30 minutes

This machine impressed us with how little noise it made that we sometimes forgot if it was on or not. We noticed that on some injuries the swelling went down faster than normal. That garnered a lot of points in our book.

One of our injured co-worker also used this overnight and was fairly impressed at how quiet it hummed in the background while he slept. He was even surprised at how much it reduced his swelling upon waking up the following day.

When we tried it ourselves, we found that using iced water bottles was more convenient than running to and from the local grocery store in the area just to get ice. It saved us a lot of time from having to dump all the melted ice from the reservoir mainly because once the iced water bottles melted, the slush stayed inside the bottle container.

A tip is to 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
  • Will help with pain thus reducing the number of pain medicine intake 

What We Didn't Like

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    Some people have reported that the tubing will condensate and sweat
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    Misleading and inadequate instructions on how to use the device
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    Some reported that the accessories were difficult to use

Evaluating the Cryotherapy Arctic Ice Cold Water Therapy machine went like a breeze. We mostly observed how it worked on family members who recently had surgery and their feedback was that it did a lot better than using an ice pack by hand.

This device is great when you need to tone done a lot of swelling on inflamed areas of your injury. Especially post operation cases. It has proven to keep the pain and swelling down on most of the subjects we used it on.

We also conducted local surveys on how each machine worked for those who had it. Mostly they have used the machine for 3 to 4 months and it still worked quite well. That was definitely a huge plus.

Although there were some critical feedbacks about how their universal pad was not so universal at all. So we tested it and we did find that there were certain areas in the body which were hard to cover up such as wrapping it around the foot or keeping it in place on the shoulder area. 

What We Liked

  • Low humming sound of the motor is relaxing
  • plus
    Can continuously supply cold water for up to 7 hours straight 

What We Didn't Like

  • Universal pad is hard to keep in place on certain areas of the body
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    Some have reported that the device breaks after more than 9 months of use
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    There were also reports about the machine getting clogged giving out more noise

4. ARS Aqua Relief System – 1st Runner Up

This ARS Aqua Relief System is definitely one of the good ones. Ice packs simply melt, fall off and have hard chunks of ice that causes your skin to burn. This machine is a great alternative.

Through crowdsourcing we have mostly gathered feedbacks that this piece of machine (when taken care of) lasts up to 3 surgeries. We visited those who used the ARS Aqua Relief System and they mostly had a lot of positive things to say.

Especially those who used it after their surgery. We were able to see how much it helped their swelling and soreness especially after a hard session of exercises and bends in a typical physical therapy session.

When we tested this machine, we were surprised at how well it relieved our aching body parts. We have also surmised that the universal pad that comes along with this machine fits really well on the knee. The bandage gives a lot of compression which pretty much relieves pain in an instant. 

What We Liked

  • Works really well in reducing swelling and soreness
  • Well built. Only a few reports about leakage. 
  • plus
    Has holes to attach a shoulder strap. Very portable

What We Didn't Like

  • No handle which makes it difficult to dump water from the reservoir
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    Pump takes a lot of space inside which limits the space for more ice
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    Pad that comes along is a little bit on the small side

This gravity fed non-motorized machine is integrated to combine focal compression and cold efficiently. Upon trying the machine we were able to see how it delivered chilled water straight into the cuff.

Some subjects we interviewed attested that this machine has helped them a lot after a rigorous physical therapy session on their post-operation recovery.

We also tried this during our co-worker’s ankle rehabilitation. She gave us a well-documented review about how it managed her pain and effectively minimized the swelling down to a minimum. She also emphasized how convenient it was that the cuff that came along with the machine could be worn on the right and left leg.

This is a good alternative in cases when you have a splint or a cast since its cuff is adjustable- adjusting the Velcro on the bottom of the foot will make it fit.

What We Liked

  • Boot cuff is easy to assemble
  • Once elevating the insulated container, will give a higher amount of compression 
  • Dropping the device below the air cast will allow the warm water to drain

What We Didn't Like

  • Does not circulate
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    Some have reported that the boot is too big and will not effectively cool their front ankle
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    Pad that comes along is a little bit on the small side


Our Recommendations:

Editor's Pick: Ossur Cold Rush Cold Therapy System

Choosing which one was the best proved to be a difficult decision. After carefully re-evaluating and assessing the top 5 in our list, we came to the conclusion that if we were to get a cold therapy machine, we’d have to go for the Ossur Cold Rush Cold Therapy System. 

It’s a patient favorite with its whisper quiet and holistic design, durable motor, and robust flow rate. We tried it, we tested it and this machine did not disappoint. It helps more than any pain medications can and the relief is almost instant and continuous.

Runners Up: ARS Aqua Relief System & Active Ice Therapy System 2.0

The ARS Aqua Relief System came in second with its ability to control and suit your comfort level. The relief system is truly effective and we think it is the next best machine to get if you have reservations on our top 1 pick. Additionally, iIt also has heating capabilities on top of it.

The Active Ice Therapy System 2.0’s quiet, steady and effective cooling features have snagged the 3rd place among the best. It provides the right amount of compression while efficiently insulating the target area. Which makes for an effective drug-free pain relief.

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About the Author

Walter J. Farrell is an accountant who is very passionate about sharing his knowledge on high tech gadgets. He started AuthorityAdviser to help people know more about the products that are currently a hit in the market.

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