Are you recovering from a total knee replacement and wondering what cold therapy devices you should purchase or if you need to purchase any devices at all to help manage your pain? This video will explain the effects of ice machines and compare it to effects of ice cubes on managing pain following a knee replacement.

After a total knee replacement, your doctor may recommend using ice to help alleviate pain and swelling .[1] You may be wondering why ice and how does it help with pain? Following a knee replacement surgery, pain is experienced because the nerve endings in your knee send pain signals to your brain.[2] If these signals do not reach the brain, the sensation of pain may be absent or lessened.[2] As such, ice is able to alleviate pain because it reduces the internal temperature of the knee and slows down the speed at which the pain signals travel from the knee to the brain.[3] Check out this blog to learn more about what you can do to manage pain after knee replacement surgery.

Now that we have an understanding of how pain is experienced, you may be wondering what types of ice devices are available and if they are better than using regular ice cubes or you may be wondering what an ice machine even is.

Ice machines are computer assisted devices that generally work by circulating cold water through a pad or wrap which is then applied to the affected body part.[4] Although ice machines allow for precise temperature control, continuous application, and compression which can help minimize swelling, a drawback is that they are expensive, and are less portable.[5]

In contrast, ice cubes alone can provide the same pain relieving benefits and they are accessible, cost-free and easy to use.[1] In a review of existing studies comparing the effects of ice machines and ice bags, the results show no significant difference in pain reduction between the two methods.[5]

Thus, if you are contemplating whether or not to buy an ice machine, based on what we know, I would recommend opting for ice cubes. They are equally effective in managing pain after knee replacement surgery, while also being easily accessible, cost-free, and convenient to use. Ice cubes provide the same pain-relieving benefits as ice machines, without the expense or inconvenience of purchasing and using a specialized device.

To learn more about cold therapy, and the effects of ice machines, and ice cubes, check out my blog on the curovate website!

If you have had a knee injury or surgery try our app Curovate for your daily recovery. Curovate provides video-guided daily exercises, progress tracking, and the ability to measure your knee and hip range of motion all within the app!

If you need further customized assistance during your surgery or injury recovery check out our Virtual Physical Therapy page to book your 1-on-1 video session with a physical therapist.

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1. White PF. The changing role of non-opioid analgesic techniques in the management of postoperative pain. Anesthesia and Analgesia. 2005;101(5S). doi:10.1213/01.ane.0000177099.28914.a7

2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Pain, Disability, and Chronic Illness Behavior; Osterweis M, Kleinman A, Mechanic D, editors. Pain and Disability: Clinical, Behavioral, and Public Policy Perspectives. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1987. 7, The Anatomy and Physiology of Pain. Available from:

4. Martin SS, Spindler KP, Tarter JW, Detwiler KB. Does cryotherapy affect intraarticular temperature after knee arthroscopy? Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. 2002;400:184-189. doi:10.1097/00003086-200207000-00023

4.Coviello M, Abate A, Ippolito F, et al. Continuous cold flow device following total knee arthroplasty: Myths and reality. Medicina. 2022;58(11):1537. doi:10.3390/medicina58111537

5. Markert SE. The use of cryotherapy after a total knee replacement. Orthopaedic Nursing. 2011;30(1):29-36. doi:10.1097/nor.0b013e318205749a