Fancy ice machine or old reliable frozen corn?
September 8, 2019 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Having arthroscopic hip surgery soon and the doctor recommended a cold therapy device or at the very least ice packs of some kind to relieve pain and promote healing. Which one should I go for?

The particular machine he recommended is this one. It's (probably) not covered by insurance so I'd either have to buy one outright (~$160) or rent one (~$45/week).

Do these devices have a significant advantage over just rotating through bags of frozen vegetables? I can absorb the cost of either renting or buying and I'm not inclined to cheap out on something that's important to recovery, but if it isn't worth it then it isn't worth it.
posted by sinfony to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
I had a patellar tendon repair 12 years ago and still speak fondly of this machine. It evenly distributes the cold and lasts longer than ice packs. It helped me get off opiods quickly. Mine required semi frequent refills of ice, so be prepared if yours works the same way.
posted by Pleased_As_Punch at 7:53 PM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I opt for flexible gel packs. They stay cold longer, and you don’t end up with bags of thawed corn.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:57 PM on September 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

The hospital sent my mom home with one of those Iceman machines after arthroscopic knee surgery, as they'd used the machine in the hospital recovery room and had already billed for it. We hated it. It took so much work for her helpers (me!) to get all the ice and haul the tank into the kitchen to dump the water after, and it quickly needed more ice than we could produce in our freezer.

HOWEVER: In speaking to a nurse recently, I learned you can largely solve this problem by freezing water in advance in a number of small plastic bottles and then letting some of those bottles bob around to cool the water in the tank while the other small bottles would refreeze in the freezer. Smart.

Anyway, we got fed up with the Iceman within a day because of the ice running out. Also, the Iceman has all sorts of wires and tubes, which were hard for our patient to disconnect/reconnect/rearrange when she needed to get up or adjust. So we used old fashioned ice packs (the refillable ones with the screw tops) wrapped in soft old towels. Filled with water and ice, they last for many hours, and our patient healed comfortably and well, and was also able to cut off the opioids ahead of schedule.
posted by mochapickle at 8:12 PM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

For me, gel pads don't stay cold as long as a bunch of ice in a big ol' ziploc, wrapped in a towel.
posted by rhizome at 8:16 PM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I recently bought these ice packs(In the smaller size). They make really large ones and I really enjoy the length and degree of cold.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:57 PM on September 8, 2019

I just recovered from bilateral hip surgeries! I would very much have liked one of those machines, in theory. In reality, I did not at all have the stamina or physical ability to deal with one. It’s a lot more work than ice packs. I was quite happy with ive packs, and recommend the cryo freeze variety. I’m also someone who is quite sensitive to machinery sounds, and the recirculating ice machines are noisy. Juggling actual ice and putting water into the freezer to make ice while on crutches ... yeah that’s not a good time. Gel ice packs are easy to deal with one (and no) handed. The fancy machine stays cold longer, but you are only allowed 20 minutes at a time anyway.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:10 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just had knee surgery two weeks ago (Synovial Chondramatosis! Alright!) and the rule of thumb was ice four times a day but only ten~fifteen minutes per application, the reasoning being that too much cold slows down the healing process. Tough to stick to because the cooling is such a relief, but I can buy the logic.
I used gel-packs: got some nice big ones from Walgreens last time we were in the US, they work a treat. (And lasted longer than the prescribed 15 min.)
posted by From Bklyn at 2:00 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’m a fairly recent ice pack convert, having used frozen vegetables for years. The flexible packs are just so much nicer! Frozen veggies can freeze pretty hard, especially when you thaw and refreeze them repeatedly, so they can be awkward to hold in place and don’t distribute the cold particularly well. Flexible ice packs eliminate these issues, plus they’re much more durable and they (at least the one I have) have a light fabric layer for just enough insulation.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:59 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Instead of frozen veggies, the teen-age runners in my house use water mixed with rubbing alcohol and double-bagged to make a 30-degree slushie pack. It conforms well to non-planar body parts; we have several sets of these packs stored in the freezer to rotate through.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:15 AM on September 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Get the ice machine (or look online for a knock off, we found a guy selling ones made from a small igloo cooler at half the cost of the one you linked, if you're interested drop me a line and I'll tell you where to find it). There's simply no comparison with how long these things stay cold and keep moving heat away from your body. I kept 6 water bottles in the freezer, and we'd cycle through using 3 of them at a time so there was always pre-frozen stuff when needed.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:36 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I use a flexible ice pack I got off of Amazon. It stays cold a long time. My brother used it on his knee and would use an old ace bandage to hold it in place. It also doubles as a hot pack, so I can go that way when my muscles are all knotted up.

It was this one.

I found the holder thing it comes with to be useless. I couldn't figure out how to get it on my shoulder. YMMV when it comes to knees.
posted by kathrynm at 8:01 AM on September 9, 2019

We found an IceMan on OfferUp for $50 before my husband's shoulder surgery. It was in great shape and since most people only use these for a limited time to recover from surgery, you should look on local selling groups to see if you can get a better deal. Icing made a big impact in his recovery and we feel like it was worth it.

However, it was a lot of work for me. My husband would not have been able to do all of the ice refills and water dumping post surgery. I changed it twice a day - first thing in the morning and then in the late afternoon. Fortunately, we have a chest freezer, so I bought 20 pound bags of ice at a time and stored them in there. I dumped the water outside to water our plants. The mini chest freezer held about 5 pounds of ice, so I had to buy a bag of ice every 2 days or so.
posted by topophilia at 9:15 AM on September 9, 2019

I've had two arthroscopic hip surgeries in the past few years. I though I might need one of those but laziness kept me from making the decision. Gel ice packs from CVS were just fine. If I missed out by not having one of those fancy ice machines, I wouldn't know it.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:44 AM on September 9, 2019

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