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The Aircast Knee Cryo Cuff can be a valuable piece of equipment while you rehabilitate from knee replacement surgery. As an alternative to ice, it reduces the need for repetitive freezing and thawing and the quantity of ice and water needed.
It saves time and if you’re diligent about icing (as you should be) it’s likely cheaper in the long run.
In this article we’ll discuss what the Cryo Cuff is and how to use the knee Cryo Cuff with pump (also gravity fed). I’ll share my experience with icing my knee after surgery and how this unit can be valuable to others recovering from knee replacement surgery. Lets get started.
Icing My Knee
Even before knee replacement surgery, icing my knee was an important part of reducing inflammation and swelling. I had to deal with knee pain for 40 years and subtle changes in my lifestyle made big impacts to reduce knee pain.
These adjustments included finding new low-impact ways to exercise and keeping my weight down to reduce pressure on my knee. For the most part, I continued to do what I loved, which was being active.
As I’ve become older and wiser, I began to experience slightly more pain in my joint and I found myself icing my knee and taking more ibuprofen. Whether people like to do it or not, icing helps! And although ice is easily found in American homes, we hate the hassle of putting ice in a bag or freezing and refreezing gel packs.
The product we’re discussing today is the Aircast Knee Cryo Cuff and we’re reviewing it as an alternative to ice packs. I have used it (see picture above) and I love it.
I’ve learned that it’s convenient and has a number of advantages over icing. I just might have to buy it now.
Key Recovery Steps After Knee Replacement Surgery
As a student of exercise I’ve taken university courses on first aid, exercise physiology, and injury recovery.
Ask any physical therapist about the acronym RICE and they will tell you what it stands for – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
After surgery rest is important. But don’t get lazy, movement is also important and as soon as you’re able to move around you should be walking to begin recovery.
Your mobility will be limited the first few days after surgery, but after a week you’ll begin to move around and put pressure on your knee joint.
After therapy sessions or muscle strengthening sessions at home you’ll want to allocate plenty of time to rest. And while you rest you can implement the other components of RICE
Icing your knee is what we’re covering in this article. Per your doctor’s recommendation, it’s likely you’ll be icing your knee 6-7 times per day (or more) in the first few weeks.
Icing will help reduce inflammation and swelling – which promotes recovery. You can use actual ice in a zip-lock bag. You can use ice gel packs that fit into a handy knee brace, or you can use the Aircast Knee Cryo Cuff that we discuss in this article.
Related: Best Shoes After Knee Replacement
Compression can be done alone or in combination with icing. Some people use compression during exercise but compression is essential after exercise to reduce swelling and push blood and fluid by-products away from the knee.
Elevation will often be done in conjunction with icing and compression. Raising the knee to heart-level helps blood and fluid exit the leg where it can be processed in the body.
Elevation is a healthy practice after long trips (flights), after standing on your feet for long periods of time, or after surgery.
Cryo Cuff Knee With Autochill System – What Is A Cryo Cuff
Cryotherapy includes a range of therapies that include localized icing, ice baths, and cold chambers. The Cryo Cuff is a strap-on brace with a bladder inside.
Cold water enters and provides the user cold, near freezing temperatures. As the bladder fills with cold water, it creates pressure against the skin.
The brace has a hole over the knee cap to properly align with the joint. The brace does not cover the back of the knee.
Cryo Cuff’s aim is to improve the icing process by reducing the need for additional ice and frequent visits to the freezer. The benefits over traditional ice are:
- Fraction of ice needed (handful per day)
- Reduces the need for freezing ice packs
- Reduces the need to visit the freezer
- No leakage
- Easy to carry and empty cooler
- Detachable hose makes walking while icing possible
In addition to the brace, there is a cooler and a tube that delivers cold water from the cooler to the knee. Initially, the cooler is filled with a small amount of ice plus water.
The ice and water is insulated in the cooler so it will stay cold all day.
The Aircast Knee Cryo Cuff is offered with 2 options. A gravity fed system and a pump system (requires plugin). The tube is used to fill the brace and once the brace is full the tube can be detached to allow the user to walk (if needed).
After 15-20 minutes of icing the knee with cold water, unstrap the brace and raise above the cooler – water will return to the cooler. As needed you can lower the brace to refill with fresh cold water.
If you’re using the cooler with the pump option, the pump will automatically return the water to the cooler.
How To Use the Aircast Knee Cryo Cuff (Instructions)
Action #1 – The Cryo Cooler
Connect the tube to the cooler. Next, fill the cooler with water up to the line indicated inside the cooler.
Add enough ice to the top of the cooler – this will provide 6-8 hours of cold treatment. Lay the insulation piece over the ice and water. Twist to close and seal the cooler.
Shake the cooler and allow 5-10 minutes for the water to become cold.
Action #2 – The Aircast Cryo Cuff
The Cryo Cuff cooler only works with the Aircast Cryo Cuff. Before using make sure the Cryo Cuff is empty of water.
Lay it over the knee and use the two straps to secure the brace around the knee. Make sure it’s snug but not too tight because cold water still needs to enter the Cryo Cuff.
The lower strap should be very loose. Your knee-cap should line up with the opening in the middle of the aircast.
Action #3 – Fill the Cuff
To fill the cuff, connect the tube to the Cryo Cuff and listen for a click to ensure the connection is secure.
You will also need to open the vent on the cooler, which allows cold water to smoothly fill the tube and Cryo Cuff.
Raise the cooler 15 inches or less above the cuff and the water will fill the Cryo Cuff (never raise above 15 inches or there will be significant pressure). After it is filled, close the vent on the cooler and disconnect the tube.
If you’re using the auto-chill system, keep the tube connected to the cuff (see info below).
Action # 4 – Rechill the Water
Rechilling the water in the cuff is easy. You’ll want to do this after 15-30 minutes then once an hour as needed.
To remove the water from the cuff into the cooler, connect the tube, open the cooler vent and raise the Cryo Cuff higher than the cooler – water will return to the cooler. If you want cold water immediately, raise the cooler higher (max 15 inches) and cold water will return to the brace.
Alternate Option – Auto Chill
If you’re using the auto-chill option you won’t need to raise the cooler above the Cryo Cuff. The cooler and cuff should be fairly level for the pump to work optimally.
When setting up the auto-chill system, connect the clear air tube from the pump to the cooler lid with the check valve at the cooler end. Also connect the power cord to the bottom of the pump and plug in – turn on the power switch.
If you need to replace the ice when using the auto-chill, turn off the pump and unplug the device then disconnect the clear air tube from the Cryo Cuff.
When using the Cryo Cuff sensitivity will differ from person to person – be aware of how your knee feels when icing. If you experience pain you may be icing too long (more than 15-20 minutes) or you may have other issues to consider.
If you are hypersensitive, lack circulation, have Raynaud’s disease or vasospastic disease, you should consult your doctor before use.
Aircast Cryo Cuff Knee Reviews
For more than 30 years, Aircast has helped people recover from injury. Aircast is a brand name under the DJO Global Company based in Vista, California.
Most patients and athletes have used an Aircast product if they are rehabbing an injury (e.g. sprained ankle, broken leg, ACL/MCL tear). Aircasts revolutionized the “cast” industry by providing a lightweight, more comfortable, and removable cast.
The Aircast Cryo Cuff builds on the company’s ingenuity by improving the simple process of icing. For people with minor injuries, the Cryo Cuff may not be necessary, however, for people like me who are recovering from knee replacement surgery, the Cryo Cuff will save time, resources, and the hassle of going to and from the freezer for more ice.
Let’s take a look at the review.
Of note, the cooler and tube and Cryo Cuff can be purchased together or separately. The cooler weighs approximately 2 pounds and isn’t a “large” cooler. For a smaller device it’s amazing that it will keep ice/water cold for 6-8 hours.
The Cryo Cuff comes in 3 sizes (small, medium, and large), fitting thighs 10”-31” in circumference. It comes in 1 color, blue and weighs 8.8 ounces.
Of all the products I’ve reviewed, the Cryo Cuff has the most comments about being useful for knee replacement. When most people ice their body it is done occasionally or short-term.
Knee replacement surgery requires months of recovery. That means icing multiple times per day for months – sometimes up to 6 months and beyond.
While I don’t mind going to the freezer for ice, it becomes a hassle when you’re doing it 3-4 times per day for months on end. With this product you fill the cooler once and it works all day. You can leave the cooler in your preferred icing location (on the couch I presume) and it reduces the need for movement. Some of the review highlights:
- Very effective for knee replacement
- After weeks of refreezing ice packs and getting ice, this is a time saver
- A must-have if you have no one to help out
- Perfect for post-knee surgery
- I had TKR and the Cryo Cuff worked superbly
Would I Get The Aircast Knee Cryo Cuff If I Had Knee Surgery Again
The answer is yes. I know the importance of icing my knee and I’ve done-so diligently for the past few months. When combined with the other RICE activities, Rest, Compression, and Elevation, Ice can speed up recovery and reduce inflammation.
It’s not a problem to find ice because we all have freezers and ice machines. However, sometimes we forget to fill the ice trays, sometimes the ice machine runs out, and sometimes the homemade ice packs leak on the floor.
The Aircast Cryo Cuff solves many problems. It will not leak. It requires a minimal amount of ice and water per 8 hours.
It can be filled, then disconnected to allow walking and movement. It can be emptied in the sink. The cooler can sit on the table next to the couch.
Lastly, it’s great for people who might be living alone or lack the assistance that a spouse might provide.
Considering the investment, the Cryo Cuff costs a bit upfront but as the saying goes “time is money”. You will spend way less time making and fetching ice. You will also help conserve water!
I know the challenges involved when planning for and going through with knee replacement surgery. It’s important to find the right information and quality products that help us recover quickly.