Technology

The science of perfect cold compression

To create a new way to deliver effective cold therapy – reducing pain and inflammation better than ever before – the übertherm design team started from the ground up. We set out to build something comfortable, safe, and effective, correcting the many shortcomings of conventional cold packs.

What’s wrong with the old way?

reduce pain and inflammationThe medical science has long shown that aggressively freezing body tissues is unhealthy. Freezing is a burn, and just like a sunburn (even a light one) it’s bad for you. If you freeze muscles and tendons – especially those already trying to heal from an injury or stress – you injure them and delay healing. The reason is fairly simple: freezing leads to ice crystal formation. Look under a microscope and you’ll see that those ice crystals look just like needles and razor blades, easily cutting into nearby cell membranes and delicate internal organelles, setting off a cellular injury response – the first step of which is inflammation (exactly what you don’t want).

Conventional ice packs are simply overzealous, freezing muscles and tendons to temperatures so low that they suffer ice burns, nerve injuries, and sometimes even frostbite. Even a short ice burn can trigger or worsen existing inflammation. Freezing also makes muscles and tendons brittle and prone to re-injury. It’s cooling, not freezing, that is the trick to helping slow the cycle of chronic inflammation and calm the nerves that transmit pain.

How did übertherm fix it?

We incorporated the scientific principle of thermal conduction into every step of the design process. Put simply, thermal conduction is a measure of how quickly something transfers heat (cold is just heat leaving your body). Things that conduct quickly are more likely to cause burns and be painful, and when dealing with extreme temperatures near our bodies, conduction becomes very important.

To illustrate this issue we can think of how saunas are designed. Saunas often use cedar wood floors and benches to prevent skin burns. Cedar has a very low thermal conduction rate, so even when the temperature is very hot the heat is transferred slowly and so we sense warmth not burning. With all materials, it’s not how hot or cold they are but how quickly they conduct that determines their safety and how they feel to us. Slow cooling is an excellent way to calm inflammation and ease chronic pain, freezing is not.

Slow and steady wins the race

In the case of cold therapy, we set out to reach a conduction rate similar to that of cedar wood (0.2 watts per meter Kelvin if you want to be technical). We experimented with hundreds of different ideas, combining conducting and insulating materials in layers, until we arrived at just the right formula to support the latest science. We then wove those materials into a fabric-like pocket material that goes between you and the source of cold, allowing for gradual, sting-free, cooling without the risk of tissue freezing, ice burns, and pain. The result is our line of übertherm cold compression products and the future of cold therapy. No more ice burned tissues, no more frozen muscles and tendons, just perfect cooling as never before.

Seeing is Believing

Hr Content
Shown using infrared photography, we see how conventional ice packs overdo it. That dark purple area in the circle on the left image is already well below freezing at 10 minutes, showing the beginnings of an ice burn and where ice crystals will likely form. On the right, also at 10 minutes, we see the übertherm cooling evenly and completely, while remaining comfortably above the freezing point.

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