Icing after an injury is a common treatment after shoulder surgery to decrease pain and inflammation. Also known as cold therapy or cryotherapy, the cold temperatures decrease the body’s natural inflammatory response, decreases swelling and calms irritable nerves. Cryotherapy is one of the most effective and safest ways to manage pain after surgery and can help patients heal faster.
There are several ways to utilize cryotherapy after and injury or surgery. One of the easiest ways is to place ice with some water in a plastic bag and then wrap this with a wash cloth. This can then be placed on the painful extremity, and we encourage a “20 minutes on, 20 minutes off approach.” A bag of frozen peas is also a great convenient alternative, as this can be more comfortable for patients as the peas do not get as cold as ice. Gel-based ice packs are also a great alternative that can be found at any drug store or online. We never recommend that the ice is applied directly to the skin as this can result in frostbite.
After surgery we often utilize more advanced methods of cryotherapy. There are several units available that circulate cold water via a motor through a special pad that is placed on the injured area. These more advanced cryotherapy solutions allow us to target to problem areas impacted by your surgery with more precision. Some of these units even provide compression to the joint that further facilitates healing and pain relief. They also allow you to continue to rest after surgery, rather than running back and forth to the freezer. When we really want to take advantage of the most advanced cryotherapy methods, we will talk to you about purchasing them before or immediately after surgery. We have several types of these units available and we have DME (durable medical equipment) specialists here at OrthoNebraska who know more about the various types of equipment and which insurance companies may pay for it, or your best options for paying out of pocket.
Overall, ice is a safe and effective way to treat pain if you feel it works well for you.
Are you wondering what else you need for a shoulder surgery? Make an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists.