Cold Therapy Devices and Nerve Damage

What Exactly Are Cold Therapy Devices?

“Cold therapy” devices,  are often used by patients following joint injuries and surgical procedures, have been linked to serious nerve damage, skin damage, and extreme, permanent pain in some users.

Cold therapy (generally called “cryo therapy”) devices are used to take down the swelling resulting from surgery by cooling the swollen or inflamed areas of the body. The device is filled (like you would a cooler) with ice water, the cooling pad is then placed on the body part affected. A pump inside the cold therapy device continually circulates ice water to the cooling pad through connecting tubes. This is what keeps the pad ice-cold for long periods of time.

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Doctors generally prescribe cold therapy devices to patients following surgery or serious injury, but the devices come with little or no instructions about recommended temperatures or length of treatment and lack a shut-off or alarm mechanism that would prevent the device from running too long or from being too cold.

People are usually told something to the effect of, “The colder the pad and the more time you can keep it on your skin, the better result.” Therefore, the existing nerve damage or desensitized areas from the surgery or injury, patients sometimes can’t feel how cold the pad is on their skin. This can result in Nerve and skin damage occurring. Damage may also occur in patients using the product as recommended.

What Kinds of Injuries Are Caused by Cold Therapy Devices?

Cold therapy victims have suffered injuries to the ankles, feet, wrists, hands, shoulders, and knees as a result of using the device.

Injury types: Injuries generally fall into two different categories:

  1. Nerve and skin damage.Skin damage will have visible injuries, such as frostbite.
  2. Nerve damage.Objective tests, such as the electromyogram (EMG) test, can be performed to confirm damage in absence of visible injury.

Cold therapy nerve and skin damage injuries can be the result of above freezing temperatures. Some patients have reported having nerve or skin damage after using cold therapy devices in the 45-55 degree range.


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