Introduction: Cold therapy is commonly used after sports injury, trauma and surgery to reduce pain and swelling. The ideal therapy should lower skin temperature quickly when applied and keep the injured area cool during the treatment period. There have been recent advances in technology to deliver cold therapy. However, little is know about how the products should be used and whether they are any better at reducing skin temperature than traditional ice/water combinations. The aim of this study, therefore, was to determine whether gel pack was better at reducing skin temperature than ice pack, and the optimal preparation of these products prior to cold therapy. Methods: Two types of cold therapy devices were tested in this study, a rubber bag with cap, strapped to the limb with neoprene and Velcro (ICE‘N’EASY, Bokarina, QLD, Australia) and a Gel pack (DuraSoft) consisting of purified water and a non-toxic gel combination (DonJoy-Orthopaedic Pty Ltd, Normanhurst, NSW, Australia). Eight experimental groups (n = 6 for each) were tested. ICE’N’EASY ice pack was divided into two subgroups, one with the rubber bag filled with ice cubes and the other filled with ice cubes and tap water with all the ice cubes submerged under water. The Gel packs were divided into six subgroups; according to the time (18, 24, 36, 48 60 and 72 h) the gel packs were stored in a −15 °C freezer prior to application. Skin surface temperature was measured via a computer based temperature sensor. The sensor was placed under a standardised surgical dressing on a rubber human knee model. Gel pack/ice packs were placed into their respective slings, wrapped around the model and monitored for 3 h with the temperature recorded at 1-minute intervals. Results: All preparations reduced the skin temperature quickly from 25 °C to 15–10 °C. There was no difference between ice cubes and the addition of water to ice cubes in the rubber bag. The gel packs were more effective at reducing probe temperature and produced a temperature 1.4 °C to 3.7 °C cooler than ice and water combinations (p < 0.05). Interestingly, the freezing time of gel pack stored in a freezer before application affected probe temperature, with a freezing time of 36 h being the most effective freezer time before application. Conclusion: Gel packs were more effective at cooling than ice and water combinations. The optimal freezing time for the DuraSoft gel pack was 36 h.
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© 2010 Published by Elsevier Inc.