Using cold therapy to reduce swelling and pain of an acute injury is ages old. Many a horseman attests to the benefits of turning out a horse with lower leg problems in deep snow. The combined effects of muscle activity and cold reduce edema and improve movement. Yet, too few horse professionals recognize the usefulness of ice in preventing swelling or inflammation after exercise.
Cold water hosing, a common modality, cools the skin surface, but the temperature is uncontrolled and might not be cold enough to affect the structures most often involved in sports injury.
Effective cold therapy, called cryotherapy, comes in the form of commercial ice packs, ice cubes or chips, bandages soaked in ice slush and ice cup massage. As an equine therapy modality, ice has a broad range of application. Ice massage is used for:
severe bruises or hematoma resulting from direct trauma such as a bite or kick
trauma from a concussion such as splints or bucked shins
swelling from surgery or an injury
a reaction to an intermuscular injection
Cold therapy systems utilize either an ice water reservoir or a refrigeration system to pump cooling liquid through form fitting applicator pads. Some systems also use pumped air or mechanical compression to agument the cold treatment. Research like the cold and compression study (PDF 74KB) link shown here suggest better outcomes for certain injuries than cold alone.