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Publication numberUS20040068310 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/322,269
Publication dateApr 8, 2004
Filing dateDec 17, 2002
Priority dateOct 8, 2002
Also published asUS7211104, US20040068309, WO2004033031A2, WO2004033031A3
Publication number10322269, 322269, US 2004/0068310 A1, US 2004/068310 A1, US 20040068310 A1, US 20040068310A1, US 2004068310 A1, US 2004068310A1, US-A1-20040068310, US-A1-2004068310, US2004/0068310A1, US2004/068310A1, US20040068310 A1, US20040068310A1, US2004068310 A1, US2004068310A1
InventorsHoward Edelman
Original AssigneeHoward Edelman
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Therapy pad
US 20040068310 A1
Abstract
A therapy pad includes an active thermal exchange bladder, and a bladder envelope including a first face and an opposing second face. The first and second faces converge at a perimeter of the envelope and collectively define a volume adapted to receive the thermal exchange bladder. The therapy pad further includes an adjustable strapping system coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent a therapy site.
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Claims(28)
What is claimed is:
1. A therapy pad, comprising:
an active thermal exchange bladder;
a bladder envelope including a first face and an opposing second face, the faces converging at a perimeter of the envelope and collectively defining a volume adapted to receive the thermal exchange bladder, and
an adjustable strapping system coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent a therapy site.
2. The therapy pad of claim 1, wherein the first face includes mesh, and the second face includes stretchable loop material configured to releasably receive complementary hook material.
3. The therapy pad of claim 2, wherein the adjustable strapping system includes hook material adapted to releasably attach to the stretchable loop material.
4. The therapy pad of claim 1, wherein the active thermal exchange bladder is shaped with a concave inner contour.
5. The therapy pad of claim 4, wherein the concave inner contour is fixed by closing indentations of a perimeter of the active thermal exchange bladder.
6. The therapy pad of claim 1, wherein the active thermal exchange bladder is shaped with a concave inner contour adapted to fit a shoulder therapy site, and the strapping system includes an adjustable cross-chest strap and an adjustable under-arm strap.
7. The therapy pad of claim 1, wherein the active thermal exchange bladder is shaped with a concave inner contour adapted to fit a chest therapy site, and the strapping system includes adjustable shoulder straps and adjustable side straps.
8. The therapy pad of claim 1, wherein the active thermal exchange bladder is shaped with a concave inner contour adapted to fit a jaw therapy site, and the strapping system includes adjustable chin straps and a cap.
9. A shoulder therapy pad, comprising:
an active thermal exchange bladder having a concave inner contour adapted to fit a shoulder therapy site;
a bladder envelope including a first face and an opposing second face, the faces converging at a perimeter of the envelope and collectively defining a volume adapted to receive the thermal exchange bladder, and
an adjustable strapping system coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the shoulder therapy site.
10. The shoulder therapy pad of claim 9, wherein the active thermal exchange bladder is defined by a perimeter including indentations, and the concave inner contour of the active thermal exchange bladder is fixed by closing the indentations.
11. The shoulder therapy pad of claim 9, wherein the first face includes mesh, and the second face includes stretchable loop material configured to releasably receive complementary hook material.
12. The shoulder therapy pad of claim 11, wherein the strapping system includes an under-arm strap with hook material adapted to releasably attach to the stretchable loop material of the second face to secure the bladder envelope adjacent the shoulder therapy site.
13. The shoulder therapy pad of claim 9, wherein the strapping system includes an adjustable cross-chest strap and an adjustable under-arm strap.
14. A chest therapy pad, comprising:
an active thermal exchange bladder having a concave inner contour adapted to fit a chest therapy site;
a bladder envelope including a first face and an opposing second face, the faces converging at a perimeter of the envelope and collectively defining a volume adapted to receive the thermal exchange bladder, and
an adjustable strapping system coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the chest therapy site.
15. The chest therapy pad of claim 14, wherein the active thermal exchange bladder is defined by a perimeter including indentations, and the concave inner contour of the active thermal exchange bladder is fixed by closing the indentations.
16. The chest therapy pad of claim 14, wherein the first face includes mesh, and the second face includes stretchable loop material configured to releasably receive complementary hook material.
17. The chest therapy pad of claim 16, wherein the strapping system includes shoulder straps and side straps, each with hook material adapted to releasably attach to the stretchable loop material of the second face to secure the bladder envelope adjacent the chest therapy site.
18. The chest therapy pad of claim 14, wherein the strapping system includes adjustable shoulder straps and adjustable side straps.
19. A jaw therapy pad, comprising:
an active thermal exchange bladder having a concave inner contour adapted to fit a jaw therapy site;
a bladder envelope including a first face and an opposing second face, the faces converging at a perimeter of the envelope and collectively defining a volume adapted to receive the thermal exchange bladder, and
an adjustable strapping system coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the jaw therapy site.
20. The jaw therapy pad of claim 19, wherein the active thermal exchange bladder is defined by a perimeter including indentations, and the concave inner contour of the active thermal exchange bladder is fixed by closing the indentations.
21. The jaw therapy pad of claim 19, wherein the first face includes mesh, and the second face includes stretchable loop material configured to releasably receive complementary hook material.
22. The jaw therapy pad of claim 21, wherein the strapping system includes chin straps with hook material adapted to releasably attach to the stretchable loop material of the second face to secure the bladder envelope adjacent the jaw therapy site.
23. The jaw therapy pad of claim 19, wherein the strapping system includes adjustable chin straps and a cap.
24. A contrast therapy system, comprising:
a hot reservoir for holding a relatively hot fluid;
a cold reservoir for holding a relatively cold fluid;
a mixing valve for receiving a selected ratio of the hot and cold fluids from the hot and cold reservoirs and operable to deliver a therapy fluid with a therapy temperature determined by the selected ratio; and
a therapy pad including:
an active thermal exchange bladder for receiving the therapy fluid from the mixing valve and returning the therapy fluid to at least one of the hot reservoir and the cold reservoir,
a bladder envelope including a first face and an opposing second face, the faces converging at a perimeter of the envelope and collectively defining a volume adapted to receive the thermal exchange bladder, and
an adjustable strapping system coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a position adjacent a therapy site.
25. The therapy pad of claim 24, wherein the first face includes mesh, and the second face includes stretchable loop material configured to releasably receive complementary hook material.
26. The therapy pad of claim 25, wherein the adjustable strapping system includes hook material adapted to releasably attach to the stretchable loop material of the second face.
27. The therapy pad of claim 24, wherein the active thermal exchange bladder is shaped with a concave inner contour.
28. The therapy pad of claim 27, wherein the concave inner contour is fixed by closing indentations of a perimeter of the active thermal exchange bladder.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part and claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 120 from the following co-pending patent application: CONTRAST THERAPY SYSTEM AND METHOD, Ser. No. 10/267,247, filed Oct. 8, 2002; the entire contents of this application being incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Applying hot and/or cold to sore body parts as a therapeutic treatment is well known. For example, ice packs may be applied to a sprained ankle to reduce swelling, or a container filled with hot water may be applied to a sore back to help loosen and relieve the back muscles. The potential effectiveness of a hot or cold treatment increases as the level of control for the treatment increases. In particular, the effectiveness depends on the ability to control the temperature of the treatment. If cold treatments are too cold, they may cause skin and tissue damage. Similarly, if hot treatments are too hot, they may burn or otherwise damage the recipient. The effectiveness of a therapy also is dependent on the ease in which the therapy may be applied. If it is difficult for a therapy recipient to self apply a therapy, the opportunity to receive therapy may be diminished. Furthermore, if therapies are complicated and/or uncomfortable, a therapy recipient is less likely to undergo the therapy, although it may be beneficial.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0003] A therapy pad includes an active thermal exchange bladder, and a bladder envelope including a first face and an opposing second face. The first and second faces converge at a perimeter of the envelope and collectively define a volume adapted to receive the thermal exchange bladder. The therapy pad further includes an adjustable strapping system coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent a therapy site.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0004]FIG. 1 is an illustration of a contrast therapy system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0005]FIG. 2 is an illustration of a fluid circuit for administering contrast therapy in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0006]FIG. 3 is an illustration of the fluid circuit of FIG. 2 housed within the lid portion of the contrast therapy system of FIG. 1.

[0007]FIG. 4 is an illustration of a fluidic coupling assembly in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0008]FIG. 5 is an illustration of a contrast therapy pad in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0009]FIG. 6 is a cross-section view of a portion of the contrast therapy pad of FIG. 5.

[0010]FIG. 7 is an illustration of a therapy pad wrapped around a therapy recipient.

[0011]FIG. 7A is a cross-section view of the therapy pad of FIG. 7 wrapped around the therapy recipient.

[0012]FIG. 8 is a top plan view of contrast therapy pad in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

[0013]FIG. 9 is a schematic illustration showing a therapy pad with a predefined shape adapted to fit a particular therapy site.

[0014]FIG. 10 is a cross-section view of a portion of the therapy pad of FIG. 9.

[0015]FIG. 11 is a front view of a shoulder therapy pad secured to a shoulder therapy site.

[0016]FIG. 12 is a top plan view of an open thermal exchange bladder of the shoulder therapy pad of FIG. 11.

[0017]FIG. 13 is a top plan view of a closed thermal exchange bladder of the shoulder therapy pad of FIG. 11.

[0018]FIG. 14 is a cross-section view of a portion of the shoulder therapy pad of FIG. 11.

[0019]FIG. 15 is an illustration of a jaw therapy pad secured to a jaw therapy site.

[0020]FIG. 16 is a top plan view of an open thermal exchange bladder of the jaw therapy pad of FIG. 15.

[0021]FIG. 17 is a top plan view of a closed thermal exchange bladder of the jaw therapy pad of FIG. 15.

[0022]FIG. 18 is a cross-section view of a portion of the jaw therapy pad of FIG. 15.

[0023]FIG. 19 is an illustration of a chest therapy pad secured to a chest therapy site.

[0024]FIG. 20 is a top plan view of an open thermal exchange bladder of the chest therapy pad of FIG. 19.

[0025]FIG. 21 is a top plan view of a closed thermal exchange bladder of the chest therapy pad of FIG. 19.

[0026]FIG. 22 is a cross-section view of a portion of the chest therapy pad of FIG. 19.

[0027]FIG. 23 is a block diagram showing a method of applying thermal therapy to a recipient.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0028] A contrast therapy system is shown generally at 10 in FIG. 1. Although useful for applying any combination of heat, cold, and compression, to a recipient for virtually any reason, the contrast therapy system described below demonstrates particular utility for treating sore, strained, arthritic, injured, heavily exercised, and/or otherwise taxed body parts. The contrast therapy system is described below in the context of providing “therapy” to a recipient, however, it should be understood that the contrast therapy system is equally well suited for providing any combination of heat, cold, and compression for what may be considered non-therapeutic purposes.

[0029] As described herein, the contrast therapy system is capable of imparting a desired therapy temperature to a therapy pad 22, which may be applied to a therapy recipient. The system is capable of shifting the therapy temperature between hot and cold temperatures very quickly, which has proven to be beneficial. The precise temperature may be set at any temperature between controlled maximum and minimum temperatures. The system is also capable of applying compressive force to a therapy recipient, thus increasing the effectiveness of treatments. Furthermore, the contrast therapy system may be designed as a relatively small portable unit, as shown at 30 of FIG. 1, which is both easy and inexpensive to operate.

[0030]FIG. 2 schematically shows a fluid circuit of a contrast therapy system 10, and FIG. 3 shows such a circuit housed by a lid 28 of a portable control unit 30. As illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, contrast therapy system 10 includes a cold reservoir 12, hot reservoir 14, mixing valve 16, pump 18, fluidic coupling assembly 20, and therapy pad 22. As described in detail below, the contrast therapy system is designed to control the temperature of a therapy fluid that circulates through therapy pad 22. Mixing valve 16 selectively combines fluid received from the cold and hot reservoirs and passes the combined fluid to the therapy pad as a therapy fluid. The mixing valve may control the temperature of the therapy fluid, changing between hot and cold temperatures in a short period of time.

[0031] Cold reservoir 12 is designed to hold a relatively cold fluid, which may be passed to a mixing valve and eventually to a therapy pad. As shown in FIG. 1, cold reservoir 12 may include a container 24 with an open end 26 suitable for receiving a lid 28. The container and the lid may be components of the control unit. The cold reservoir may be dimensioned to hold virtually any volume of fluid, and is shown as a 4.2 Liter receptacle. Of course, smaller cold reservoirs may be used, for example, when increased portability is desired, and larger cold reservoirs may be used when, for example, increased capacity is desired.

[0032] The temperature of the cold reservoir may be controlled by various mechanisms. In some embodiments, the cold reservoir is adapted to receive ice that may melt in the cold reservoir, and thus decrease the temperature of the fluid in the cold reservoir. As shown in FIG. 1, container 24 has a large open end 26 that is suitable for easily receiving ice. In some embodiments, the cold reservoir may include a cooler for cooling the fluid held in the cold reservoir. Such a cooler may include a compressor and a refrigerant, or similar cooling mechanism. It is within the scope of the invention, however, to use virtually any other suitable method for cooling the fluid held in cold reservoir 12. The cold reservoir may include insulation to limit heat transfer between the fluid held by the cold reservoir and the external environment.

[0033] The minimum temperature of the fluid in cold reservoir 12 is usually limited to approximately 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, although such a limitation is not necessary. In particular, it has been found that a temperature of about 35 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit is an appropriate minimum temperature. Although water is usually used as the fluid, it is within the scope of the invention to use other suitable fluids. Such fluids may be selected for particular applications based on their specific heat, viscosity, freezing point, etc.

[0034] Contrast therapy system 10 may include an intake 32 for drawing fluid from the cold reservoir. The drawn fluid may pass through a fluid path 34 between cold reservoir 12 and mixing valve 16, as is schematically shown in FIG. 1. Fluid path 34, as well as other fluid paths described herein, may utilize ⅛ inch flexible tubing, or may alternatively implement another suitable fluid transport mechanism. For example, some or all of the fluid paths may alternatively be defined by inflexible fluid conduits. The fluid paths, or other fluid channels such as intake 32, may include filters, flow restrictors, and/or check valves. Filters may help prevent flow blockages resulting from jammed ice or other substances, and check valves may be used to prevent backflow in the system. The rate of fluid flow may be at least partially controlled by flow restrictors.

[0035] Hot reservoir 14 is designed to hold a relatively hot fluid, which may be passed to a mixing valve and eventually to a therapy pad. Fluid in the hot reservoir may be heated by a heater 36, which may be positioned adjacent the hot reservoir, or may be incorporated into the hot reservoir. The hot reservoir may be dimensioned to hold virtually any volume of fluid, and is shown dimensioned to hold a volume of approximately 20 to 30 cubic centimeters. It should be understood that the hot reservoir may be smaller or larger, depending on the desired use and the other components of the contrast therapy system.

[0036] Heater 36 may be configured to achieve a suitable balance of power consumption and heat generation. It has been found that a heater of approximately 280 Watts is appropriate for heating a volume of approximately 20 to 30 cubic centimeters under normal conditions. It should be understood that more powerful and less powerful heaters may be used. Similarly, more than one heater or type of heater may be used.

[0037] The flow rate of fluid through the hot reservoir may correspond to the temperature of treatment being applied, with greater flow rates occurring during hotter treatments. During some hot treatments, heater 36 may have limited time to increase the temperature of the fluid because the fluid quickly passes through the hot reservoir, and thus, the heater should be powered so as to increase the temperature a desired amount within that constrained timeframe. However, the heater does not need to completely heat the fluid from a minimum temperature to a maximum temperature in such a timeframe, although it is within the scope of the invention to do so. The hot reservoir receives fluid from the therapy pad, and when a hot treatment is being applied, the return fluid may already be partially heated, decreasing the magnitude of heating required from heater 36. Thus, the net temperature of the fluid may incrementally increase as it repeatedly circulates through the hot reservoir. Nevertheless, a more powerful heater may increase the rate fluid increases temperature in the hot reservoir and/or the maximum temperature of the fluid, thus decreasing the time required to change from a cold treatment to a hot treatment. The maximum temperature of the fluid in hot reservoir 14 is usually limited to approximately 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, although such a limitation is not required. In particular, it has been found that a temperature of about 105 degrees Fahrenheit is appropriate.

[0038] As illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, hot reservoir 14 receives fluid via a fluid path 38 coming from a bulkhead input 40. As described below, bulkhead input 40 receives fluid returning from the therapy pad. The returning fluid may be directed so that fluid may go to at least one of the hot reservoir, via fluid path 38, and the cold reservoir, via a return 52. In some embodiments, the hot reservoir may be housed within lid 28, which may be securely fit to open end 26 of container 24. Heater 36 may be controlled by an internal control system, external control system, or no control system whatsoever. If present, a control system may regulate the maximum temperature of fluid in the hot reservoir, for example. Such a control system may also be designed to maximize heating efficiency to limit energy requirements.

[0039] Contrast therapy system 10 includes a mixing valve 16 for receiving a selected ratio of the hot and cold fluids from the hot and cold reservoirs. The mixing valve is operable to deliver a therapy fluid with a therapy temperature that is determined by the selected ratio. In other words, mixing valve 16 may adjustably control the amount of hot fluid from the hot reservoir and the amount of cold fluid from the cold reservoir that mix together. The ratio may be 100% hot fluid from the hot reservoir, in which case the resulting therapy fluid would have a therapy temperature substantially equal to the temperature of fluid leaving the hot reservoir (maximum temperature). The ratio may alternatively be 100% cold fluid from the cold reservoir, in which case the resulting therapy fluid would have a therapy temperature substantially equal to the temperature of fluid leaving the cold reservoir (minimum temperature). Any temperature in between the maximum and minimum temperature may be achieved by adjusting the ratio.

[0040] The mixing valve is linked to the cold reservoir and the hot reservoir by respective fluid paths 34 and 42. In some embodiments, one or both of fluid paths 34 and 42 may include a pump, although no pump is required. The mixing valve outputs therapy fluid to a fluid path 44 that leads to the bulkhead output 46, and eventually to therapy pad 22. A pump may be included between the mixing valve and the therapy pad, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 and described below. As with the other fluid paths of the contrast therapy system, these fluid paths may include flow restrictors, check valves, filters, over-pressure switches, and/or other components. For example, check valve 31 and over pressure switch 33 are illustrated in FIG. 3. The flow paths may include flexible rubber tubing that is approximately ⅛ inch in diameter.

[0041] As shown in FIG. 1, the mixing valve may be controlled by a dial 48 that adjusts the ratio of hot and cold fluids delivered from the mixing valve. The dial may be associated with indicia 50 that indicate a relative magnitude of a desired therapy temperature. For example, indicia 50 may include a series of icons representing relative temperatures. A large red dot may represent the hottest therapy temperature, with red dots decreasing in size representing decreasing temperatures. Similarly, a large blue dot may represent the coldest therapy temperature, with blue dots decreasing in size representing increasing temperatures. A dial positioned to point to the large red dot may correspond to a mixing valve position that yields a ratio of 100% hot fluid. As the dial is turned through the progressively smaller red dots, and then through the progressively larger blue dots, the ratio may yield a therapy fluid with a continually increasing percentage of cold fluid.

[0042] In some embodiments, the contrast therapy system may include a thermostat that automatically selects the ratio of hot and cold fluids delivered from the mixing valve. For example, the thermostat may be designed to receive manual input of a desired therapy temperature, and adjust the mixing valve to yield a therapy fluid with that temperature. Accordingly, the thermostat may include a temperature measuring device (not shown), such as a thermistor, thermometer, thermocouple, etc. The temperature measuring device may monitor the temperature of the therapy fluid as the thermostat adjusts the mixing valve to yield the desired therapy temperature. The temperature measuring device may cooperate with a temperature display to present the temperature of the therapy fluid. The thermostat may be programmable to automatically change the therapy temperature at a desired time or event by adjusting the ratio of hot and cold fluids delivered from the mixing valve. For example, the thermostat may be programmed to provide alternating hot therapies that last for 5 minutes at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and cold therapies that last for 5 minutes at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be understood that the thermostat may be programmed for therapies of different durations and/or temperatures.

[0043] As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, contrast therapy system 10 may include a pump 18 for circulating fluid through the system. As illustrated, the pump interposes the mixing valve and the bulkhead output, although the pump may be positioned elsewhere. Similarly, more than one pump may be utilized. As is shown, the pump may be integrated into the lid of the control system. The pump may be powered according to the desired application, and a 4 Watt pump capable of pumping 300 cubic centimeters of fluid per minute has been found to be suitable. The pump may be a reciprocating pump, a rotary pump, or virtually any other suitable pump.

[0044] In some embodiments, the pump may be configured to pulse the therapy fluid through the therapy pad. Such a pulsing action may be translated into a therapeutic massage via the therapy pad. As the pulsing fluid circulates through the therapy pad, the therapy pad may vibrate. Pumps designed to pulse fluid may be further enabled to adjust the relative magnitude of the pulsing to correspond to different intensities of therapeutic massages. The relative intensity may be automatically, or manually, coordinated to correspond to a particular temperature of treatment. For example, a vigorous massage may be applied during a hot treatment while a milder massage is applied during a subsequent cold treatment.

[0045] Contrast therapy system 10 may include a fluidic coupling assembly 20 to selectively couple and decouple the mixing valve and the therapy pad. As shown in FIG. 4, the fluidic coupling assembly usually includes a bulkhead 54, which is in fluid communication with the mixing valve, a wrap connector 56 in fluid communication with therapy pad 22, and a reversible tubing assembly 58 for linking the bulkhead to the wrap connector. The reversible tubing assembly includes a first tube-set connector 60 and a second tube-set connector 62 that are functionally equivalent to one another. First tube-set connector 60 and second tube-set connector 62 are linked by fluid paths 64 and 66.

[0046] Bulkhead 54, first tube-set connector 60, second tube-set connector 62, and wrap connector 56 each include one male valve and one female valve, which are configured to mate with a corresponding female and male valve, for example, as shown by dotted lines 57 in FIG. 4. The bulkhead and the wrap connector are each configured to releasably receive either the first tube-set connector or the second tube-set connector. Therefore, tubing assembly 58 is completely reversible. For example, the bulkhead and the first tube-set connector may be coupled so that the bulkhead's male valve mates with the first tube-set connector's female valve, and the bulkhead's female valve mates with the first tube-set connector's male valve. Likewise, the wrap connector and the second tube-set connector may be coupled so that the wrap connector's male valve mates with the second tube-set connector's female valve, and the wrap connector's female valve mates with the second tube-set connector's male valve. Because the tubing assembly is reversible, the above described connection may be reversed. For example, if the first tube-set connector is connected to the bulkhead, the second tube-set connector is available for connection to the wrap connector, but if the second tube-set connector is connected to the bulkhead, the first tube-set connector is available for connection to the wrap connector. In either case, such arrangements permit fluid to flow from the control unit to the therapy pad, and then return back to the control unit.

[0047] The male and female valve of each of the above described components are equally spaced from one another. Therefore, male and female valves from one component may align with female and male valves from a corresponding component. Furthermore, bulkhead 54 is complementarily configured relative to both the first and second tube-set connectors to facilitate securing either the first tube-set connector or the second tube-set connector to the bulkhead. Similarly, either the first tube-set connector or the second tube-set connector may be secured to the wrap connector. The male and female valves are designed to prevent fluid flow unless they are mated with one another, thus limiting leakage when disconnecting the reversible tubing assembly from the control unit and/or the therapy pad.

[0048] The configuration of the fluidic coupling assembly facilitates easy connection and disconnection of a plurality of control units, tubing assemblies, and/or therapy pads. For example, the same control unit may be used with a variety of different therapy pads, which may be individually configured to treat different areas of a recipient's body. Similarly, a single therapy pad may be used with a variety of different control units, for example, when a recipient moves from one therapy location to another. The fluidic coupling assembly facilitates quick and easy coupling and decoupling, and the leak reducing male and female valves help limit spillage during such coupling and decoupling.

[0049]FIG. 5 shows therapy pad 22 apart from the remainder of the contrast therapy system. As described above, the therapy pad may be easily coupled and decoupled from the reversible tubing assembly, which allows various different therapy pads to be used with the same control unit. Each therapy pad is designed to receive therapy fluid from the mixing valve, such as through the fluidic coupling assembly, and return the therapy fluid to at least one of the hot reservoir and the cold reservoir (as shown schematically in FIG. 2). The therapy pad returns fluid to the control unit, and the returned fluid may be recirculated. Depending on the type of therapy being applied, returned fluid may be heated and/or cooled at the control unit. The contrast therapy system may include a return valve that selectively directs return fluid to the hot reservoir and/or the cold reservoir, or the return fluid may be allowed to naturally flow to the lower pressure region.

[0050] In some embodiments, the therapy pad includes an active thermal exchange bladder 68 and an elastic wrap 70 that is connected to the thermal exchange bladder. The thermal exchange bladder may include a flexible membrane of opposing faces that are welded together to define a channel system for directing the flow of therapy fluid along a desired fluid path 72 within the thermal exchange bladder. For example, the faces are usually welded along a common outer perimeter 74, sealing the faces together. A division weld 76 may direct fluid through a substantial portion of the pad before returning to the control unit. The thermal exchange bladder may also include a plurality of intermittent welds 78, that limit inflation of the bladder, as shown in FIG. 6, which is a cross-sectional view of a portion of the exchange bladder.

[0051] The thermal exchange bladder facilitates thermal exchange between a therapy site and the therapy fluid. For example, when a cold therapy is administered, heat from a recipient's body may heat the therapy fluid, which in turn cools the therapy site of the recipient's body. Similarly, when a hot therapy is administered, the therapy fluid may transfer heat to the therapy site. The therapy may be enhanced by moistening the bladder to provide a moist therapy. Furthermore, the fluid may also be pulsed through the bladder, adding a therapeutic massage aspect to the treatment.

[0052] In the illustrated embodiment, therapy pad 22 is dimensioned to hold approximately 150 cubic centimeters of fluid. However, the volume of the therapy pad may be controlled by changing the size of the therapy pad, and/or the amount of inflation the intermittent welds allow. Furthermore, the therapy pad may be constructed from an at least partially elastic material, such as urethane, which may permit the volume to change in response to the pressure of fluid within the bladder. In some embodiments, the bladder may include a less elastic material that helps prevent stretching, such as a vinyl/urethane blend.

[0053] As shown in FIG. 5, fluid may enter the bladder at wrap connector 56, flow around the division weld and the intermittent welds, and leave the bladder at the wrap connector. It is within the scope of the invention to reconfigure the bladder to accommodate different flow paths. For example, the division weld, or plural division welds, may be used to direct the fluid through a series of switchbacks before returning to the output of the wrap connector. Small breaks may be included in the division weld to permit alternative flow paths if a primary flow path is blocked.

[0054] Elastic wrap 70 is shown connected to the thermal exchange bladder. The elastic wrap may be configured to adjustably wrap around the thermal exchange bladder and compress the thermal exchange bladder around a therapy site. Compression helps induce contact of the bladder with the therapy site, which may promote efficient and even thermal transfer. Furthermore, the wrap is a compressive element in and of itself. When used in conjunction with the bladder, it keeps the bladder in contact with the therapy site, and it may also help reduce swelling through its own inherent compressibility. The wrap is continuously adjustable, meaning it may be repeatedly tightened and loosened to various levels of compression, as shown in FIG. 7. The wrap may be used in tandem with the bladder to wrap a therapy site in a variety of ways, thus providing extreme flexibility in the types of treatments that may be administered to a wide range of different therapy sites.

[0055] Wrap 70 is elastic; it may be stretched and naturally return to an unstretched disposition. When stretched, the wrap is at an increased tension, which may be used to compress a therapy pad around a therapy site, as shown in FIG. 7A. Force vectors 80 schematically represent the compressive force resulting from the wrap. The magnitude of the compressive force may be selected by adjusting the amount the wrap is stretched. As the wrap is increasingly stretched around a therapy site, the compressive force the wrap applies increases. Similarly, the wrap may be loosened, decreasing the magnitude of the compressive force. The amount of elasticity a particular wrap has may be selected according to a desired application, or range of applications. In some embodiments, the wraps are designed to stretch to approximately 150%-200% of their unstretched length, however less elastic and more elastic wraps may be used. The wraps may be variously sized, and are usually at least as long as their corresponding bladder when unstretched. As illustrated in FIG. 5, the unstretched wrap is six times as long (54 inches) as the bladder (18 inches). Because of the elastic configuration of the wrap, wrapping techniques known to physical therapists, physical trainers, and sports physicians may be used in conjunction with the therapy pad to achieve a wide variety of therapeutic benefits.

[0056] As shown in FIG. 5, elastic wrap 70 is permanently connected to thermal exchange bladder 68. The wrap may be connected by stitching, an adhesive, and/or another suitable fastener. In some embodiments, the bladder is connected to the wrap via an optional mesh envelope, shown partially cut away at 69 of FIG. 1. In such embodiments, the envelope may be permanently connected to the wrap, and the bladder may be selectively positioned within the mesh envelope. The mesh envelope may include a fastening face configured to selectively fasten with a complimentary fastener of the wrap. The wrap may alternatively be removably connected to the bladder, such as by hook and loop connectors. By permanently connecting the wrap to the bladder, such as by stitching or configuring an envelope to securely hold the bladder relative to the wrap, the wrap and the bladder may cooperate to provide a compressive force, as described herein. Furthermore, the combination has proven to be much easier to apply than separated therapy pads and wraps, and thus is more versatile.

[0057] The wrap usually includes a surface of loops 82 that are adapted to detachably receive complementary hooks 84. The hooks and loops are positioned so that the hooks may engage the loops when the wrap is wrapped around a therapy site, as shown in FIGS. 7 and 7A. The wrap may be adjusted to a desired tension and a corresponding level of compressive force that may be fixed by engaging the hooks and the loops together. The hooks and loops may subsequently be disengaged, so that the tension may be adjusted, for instance, and reengaged at will. In some embodiments, a wrap lock may alternatively be used to secure the wrap.

[0058] In some embodiments, the therapy pads may be constructed with disposable materials. For example, pads configured for a single use may be constructed from disposable materials, which are usually less expensive than reusable materials. Disposable therapy pads may be particularly useful in emergency, trauma, or post surgery situations, in which a therapy recipient may bleed onto the therapy pad. The ability to control the temperature of the therapy pad, either reusable or disposable, may increase the pad's effectiveness as a wound dressing. Disposable materials may include less resilient versions of reusable materials and/or completely different materials. In some embodiments, disposable materials may include apertured, breathable, elastomeric and/or embossed films, as well as nonwoven laminates. Wraps may alternatively be configured to be washable, such as by a laundry machine, and therefore may be sanitarily reused.

[0059] The thermal exchange bladder may be sized and shaped according to a particular range of applications. For example, a 6 inch by 18 inch bladder (as shown at 22 in FIG. 5) may be useful in treating backs, legs, arms, shoulders, and other therapy sites. Although the versatile configuration of therapy pad 22 may be used for virtually any therapy site, other therapy pads may be configured to even better accommodate particular therapy sites. For example, a 2 inch by 18 inch bladder 86, as shown in FIG. 8, may be particularly useful for treating smaller therapy sites, such as hands, wrists, feet, ankles, etc. Similarly, as shown in FIG. 11, a shoulder therapy pad may be designed to intimately engage a shoulder therapy site, thus providing comfortable and improved treatment. As shown in FIG. 15, a jaw therapy pad, which is useful in treating the facial area, may be designed to comfortably fit around a head, while positioning a bladder in contact with at least one side of a jaw. It should be understood that the above therapy pads are provided as examples, and other therapy pads may also be used. Furthermore, each therapy pad may include a suitable elastic wrap and/or other fastening mechanism, such as a strapping system.

[0060] As described and illustrated herein, some therapy pads are configured for wrapping around a therapy site. Such pads may include an active thermal exchange bladder with a generally flat shape. These pads may be wrapped around various therapy sites, thus bending the flat disposition of the bladder around the site, and conforming the bladder to the site. However, some therapy pads may be configured with a predefined shape that corresponds to a particular therapy site.

[0061]FIG. 9 schematically depicts a therapy pad 100 that is configured with a predefined shape corresponding to a particular therapy site 102. For the purpose of explanation, therapy pad 100 is shown with a generic shape that corresponds to a generic therapy site. It should be understood that therapy pad 100 may be particularly configured to correspond to specific therapy sites, such as shoulders, chests, chins, hips, necks, knees, elbows, heels, etc. The therapy pad includes a bladder envelope 104 for holding an active thermal exchange bladder 106, as shown in FIG. 10. The bladder envelope may be configured to impart a particular shape to the bladder, and/or the envelope may be configured to take on the shape of the bladder. Furthermore, the envelope may be configured to flex, stretch, bend, deform, and/or otherwise change shape, thus allowing the pad to more closely correspond to the precise shape of a therapy site. The bladder and/or envelope may be configured to allow a limited amount of shape change, or conversely, unrestricted shape change.

[0062] As illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10, bladder envelope 104 includes a first face 108 and an opposing second face 110. First face 108 is generally constructed from a material suitable for placement next to skin and adapted to facilitate heat transfer. For example, first face 108 may be constructed from cotton, nylon, polyester, or other fabrics. The first face may have a mesh or other openwork design, as well as uninterrupted designs. In some embodiments, the first face may be at least partially elastic; and in some embodiments, the first face may include structural supports to help establish a desired predefined shape for the therapy pad.

[0063] Second face 110 is generally constructed from a material that facilitates releasable attachment of straps and/or other fasteners. For example, second face 110 may include a loop material that is adapted to selectively secure complementary hook material. In some embodiments, the second face may be at least partially elastic; and in some embodiments, the second face may include structural supports to help establish a desired predefined shape for the therapy pad.

[0064] As shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, the first face and the second face converge at a perimeter 112 of the envelope. The faces may be permanently sealed together at the perimeter. For example, the faces may be stitched, glued, stapled, etc. In some embodiments, the faces may be selectively sealed, such as by a zipper, snaps, buttons, or other releasable sealing mechanism. In some embodiments, portions of the perimeter may be permanently sealed, while other portions are selectively sealed. Furthermore, some portions of the perimeter may be left unsealed. In particular, an unsealed opening 114 may be left to allow a thermal exchange bladder to couple with a control unit, such as via a fluidic coupling assembly, so that therapy fluid may be supplied to the thermal exchange bladder, thus permitting the bladder to function as an active thermal exchange bladder.

[0065] As shown in FIG. 10, the first and second face collectively define a volume 116, which is adapted to receive a thermal exchange bladder. Because at least one of the first face and the second face may be constructed from a flexible material, volume 116 may be deformable, meaning that the size and shape of the volume may change as the first face and/or second face flexes, stretches, bends, deforms, and/or otherwise changes shape. In general, the volume may be dimensioned to closely accommodate a particular thermal exchange bladder, without leaving an abundance of unoccupied space when the bladder is positioned in the volume, although additional space may be present.

[0066] A thermal exchange bladder may have a predefined contoured shape, such as a shape with an inner concave. Bladder envelope 104 may take on the shape of the thermal exchange bladder. Therefore, the bladder envelope and the bladder collectively may have a predefined shape, which may be adapted to correspond to a particular therapy site. The bladder envelope and the bladder may cooperate to provide a close fit with such a therapy site.

[0067] As is schematically shown in FIG. 9, therapy pad 100 may include an adjustable strapping system 118 that is adapted to cooperate with the shape of the pad to closely position and secure the bladder portion of the pad adjacent a therapy site 102. For example, therapy pads configured with a predefined shape corresponding to a particular therapy site may include a strapping system that is designed to coordinate with that particular therapy site. Thus, a substantial portion of the heat conducting portion of the therapy pad may be secured in direct contact with the therapy site, facilitating thermal transfer between the therapy pad and the therapy site.

[0068] Strapping systems may secure therapy pads adjacent therapy sites that are not easily wrapped. For example, a chin may be difficult to wrap, because wrapping a head generally includes undesirably covering at least one of the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. Therefore, a strapping system that securely positions a therapy pad adjacent a chin without covering the mouth, nose, eyes, or ears may be more comfortable or convenient than a wrap. Furthermore, adjusting the strapping system may be easier than unwrapping and rewrapping a wrap in some instances. In particular, a strapping system may ease application of a therapy pad to a therapy recipient that is sitting, in bed, or is otherwise difficult to move. In such situations, a strapping system may be adapted to cooperate with a bed, chair, or other device, so that a therapy recipient does not have to be moved in order to secure a therapy pad adjacent a therapy site. Alternatively, a strapping system may be used without cooperation from a bed, chair, or other device, yet still increase the ease of applying the therapy pad because a wrap does not have to be repeatedly passed around a therapy site.

[0069] Strapping systems may include releasable hook and/or loop material, that may be selectively attached to complementary hook and/or loop material. For example, loop material of second face 110 and hook material of strapping system 118 may be adapted to releasably secure a portion of the strapping system to a portion of the bladder envelope. Some portions of a strapping system may be adapted to secure to other portions of a strapping system. As shown with reference to the shoulder, chin, and chest therapy pads described below, strapping systems may be configured in a variety of arrangements for providing desired support. The strapping systems may include buckles, slides, compression fasteners, and/or other means for customizing the strapping system's ability to position and secure a bladder envelope and/or thermal exchange bladder.

[0070] Strapping systems, and/or wrapping systems, may be used to add a compression component to a therapy treatment. A strapping system may be configured so that increasing the tension of the strapping system results in an increase in the compressive force that is applied to the therapy site by the therapy pad, and vice versa. As described above, compression may be used in some treatments to limit swelling, relieve pain, restrict blood flow, etc. In some embodiments, the strapping system may be configured to facilitate treatment of plural therapy sites. For example, a shoulder therapy pad may include a strapping system that is configured to allow treatment of either a right or left shoulder.

[0071]FIG. 11 shows a shoulder therapy pad 120 configured with a predefined shape corresponding to a shoulder therapy site 122. As discussed above with reference to therapy pad 100, shoulder therapy pad 120 includes a bladder envelope 124 having a first face (not shown) and an opposing second face 126. The opposing faces converge at a perimeter 128 of the bladder envelope, and collectively define a volume 129 adapted to receive a thermal exchange bladder 130, which is shown in FIGS. 12 and 13. The first face may be constructed of a mesh material and the second face may be constructed of a stretchable loop material configured to releasably receive complementary hook material, although other materials may be used. The above described configuration is provided as an illustrative example, and other arrangements may be used for holding the thermal exchange bladder.

[0072] Shoulder therapy pad 120 includes an adjustable strapping system 132. The strapping system is coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the shoulder therapy site. As shown, the bladder envelope, which holds the thermal exchange bladder, is positioned immediately adjacent the shoulder therapy site by the strapping system. As described in more detail below, the thermal exchange bladder has a concave inner contour adapted to fit the shape of the shoulder therapy site, and the bladder envelope is flexibly configured to take on the shape of the thermal exchange bladder. Therefore, the therapy pad may closely contact a substantial portion of the shoulder therapy site. The strapping system is configured to enhance the contact between the bladder envelope and the shoulder therapy site. To this end, the strapping system includes an adjustable cross-chest strap 134 and an adjustable under-arm strap 136. The cross-chest strap and under-arm strap cooperate to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the shoulder therapy site.

[0073] The cross-chest strap and/or the under-arm strap may be selectively tightened and loosened while the therapy pad is in a generally fitted position, to customize a particular therapy and achieve a better fit. As shown, the cross-chest strap and the under-arm strap are coupled to the bladder envelope at opposing “corners” of the bladder envelope, thereby providing a mechanism for adjusting the tension of the strapping system from the perimeter of the bladder envelope, which effectively pulls the envelope around the therapy site to enhance contact of the therapy site with the therapy pad. Therefore, the strapping system improves the fit and the compression of the therapy pad.

[0074] As illustrated, the cross-chest strap includes an adjustable portion 134 a connected to the bladder envelope at the back corner of the envelope near the neck. The adjustable portion is configured to loop around the torso of a recipient, under the arm opposite the therapy site. The cross-chest strap also includes a fixed portion 134 b, which is connected to the bladder envelope at the front corner near the neck. The fixed portion terminates at a buckle 134 c, through which the adjustable portion may pass and fold back on itself. The effective length of the adjustable portion may be selected by adjusting how much of the adjustable portion passes through the buckle. The adjustable portion may include hook and loop material, or another fastener, to secure the cross-chest strap in the desired position. The above is described with reference to a shoulder therapy pad on a left shoulder, however, it should be understood that the pad may be used on a right shoulder, and/or the strapping system may be reversed to facilitate use on a right shoulder.

[0075] The underarm strap also includes adjustable portion 136 a and a fixed portion (not shown). The adjustable portion is connected to the bladder envelope at the front corner near the arm, and extends under the arm. The fixed portion includes a buckle, through which the adjustable portion may pass. The terminal end of the adjustable portion may then be secured to the second face of the bladder envelope via a hook and loop attachment, or the underarm strap may be secured via another suitable mechanism. The effective length of the adjustable portion may be selected by adjusting how much of the adjustable portion passes through the buckle.

[0076]FIG. 12 shows a top plan view of thermal exchange bladder 130. The thermal exchange bladder has an outer perimeter, shown generally at 138. The outer perimeter is defined by exterior perimeter portions 138 a, 138 b, 138 c, 138 d, 138 e, 138 f, and indentations 140 and 142. As shown, indentations 140 and 142 are respectively defined by rectilinear perimeter portions 140 a and 140 b, and 142 a and 142 b. It should be understood that the illustrated embodiment is provided as an example, and thermal exchange bladders may have perimeters with different shapes, including more or fewer indentations, which may be configured differently than those shown in FIG. 12. As shown in FIG. 12, indentations 140 and 142 are open, meaning that there is relatively more space between perimeter portions 140 a and 140 b, and 142 a and 142 b, than there is in a closed configuration, as shown in FIG. 13. In some embodiments, as is shown in FIG. 13, the perimeter may be completely closed, meaning that there is substantially no space between perimeter portions 140 a and 140 b, and 142 a and 142 b, thus effectively positioning perimeter portions 138 b and 138 c, and 138 e and 138 f, as substantially uninterrupted continuous perimeter portions.

[0077]FIG. 15 shows a jaw therapy pad 150 configured with a predefined shape corresponding to a jaw therapy site 152. As discussed above with reference to therapy pad 100, jaw therapy pad 150 includes a bladder envelope 154 having a first face 156 and an opposing second face 158. The opposing faces converge at a perimeter 160 of the bladder envelope, and collectively define a volume 161 adapted to receive a thermal exchange bladder 162, which is shown in FIGS. 16 and 17. The first face may be constructed of a mesh material and the second face may be constructed of a stretchable loop material configured to releasably receive complementary hook material, although other materials may be used. The above described configuration is provided as an illustrative example, and other arrangements may be used for holding the thermal exchange bladder.

[0078] Jaw therapy pad 150 includes an adjustable strapping system 164. The strapping system is coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the jaw therapy site. As shown, the bladder envelope, which holds the thermal exchange bladder, is positioned immediately adjacent the jaw therapy site. As described in more detail below, the thermal exchange bladder has a concave inner contour adapted to fit the shape of the jaw, and the bladder envelope is flexibly configured to take on the shape of the thermal exchange bladder. Therefore, the therapy pad may closely contact a substantial portion of the jaw therapy site. The strapping system is configured to enhance the contact between the bladder envelope and the jaw therapy site without completely covering the mouth, nose, or eyes, while leaving the ears at least substantially uncovered. To this end, the strapping system includes adjustable chin straps 166 and a cap 168. The adjustable chin straps and cap cooperate to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the jaw therapy site.

[0079] The chin straps may be selectively tightened and loosened while the therapy pad is in a generally fitted position, to customize a particular therapy and achieve a better fit. As shown, the cap is configured for placement around a head, and the chin straps are coupled to the cap and configured to hold the bladder envelope across a portion of a jaw. The chin straps are coupled to the bladder envelope at opposing “ends” of the bladder envelope, thereby providing a mechanism for adjusting the tension of the strapping system from the sides of the bladder envelope, which effectively pulls the envelope around the therapy site to enhance contact of the therapy site with the therapy pad. Therefore, the strapping system improves the fit and the compression of the therapy pad. Furthermore, the relative length and tension of the individual chin straps may be adjusted to position the bladder envelope adjacent different portions of the jaw, such as the front, left side, right side, or any intermediate position.

[0080]FIG. 16 shows a top plan view of thermal exchange bladder 162. The thermal exchange bladder has an outer perimeter, shown generally at 170. The outer perimeter is defined by exterior perimeter portions 170 a, 170 b, 170 c, 170 d, 170 e, 170 f, and indentations 172 and 174. As shown, indentations 172 and 174 are respectively defined by rectilinear perimeter portions 172 a and 172 b, and 174 a and 174 b. It should be understood that the illustrated embodiment is provided as an example, and thermal exchange bladders may have perimeters with different shapes, including more or fewer indentations, which may be configured differently than those shown in FIG. 16. As shown in FIG. 16, indentations 172 and 174 are open, meaning that there is relatively more space between perimeter portions 172 a and 172 b, and 174 a and 174 b, than there is in a closed configuration, as shown in FIG. 17. In some embodiments, as is shown in FIG. 17, the perimeter may be completely closed, meaning that there is substantially no space between perimeter portions 172 a and 172 b, and 174 a and 174 b, thus effectively positioning perimeter portions 170 b and 170 c, and 170 e and 170 f, as substantially uninterrupted continuous perimeter portions.

[0081]FIG. 19 shows a chest therapy pad 180 configured with a predefined shape corresponding to a chest therapy site 182. As discussed above with reference to therapy pad 100, chest therapy pad 180 includes a bladder envelope 184 having a first face 186 and an opposing second face 188. The opposing faces converge at a perimeter 190 of the bladder envelope, and collectively define a volume 191 adapted to receive a thermal exchange bladder 192, which is shown in FIGS. 20 and 21. The first face may be constructed of a mesh material and the second face may be constructed of a stretchable loop material configured to releasably receive complementary hook material, although other materials may be used. The above described configuration is provided as an illustrative example, and other arrangements may be used for holding the thermal exchange bladder.

[0082] Chest therapy pad 180 includes an adjustable strapping system 194. The strapping system is coupled to the bladder envelope and adapted to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the chest therapy site. As shown, the bladder envelope, which holds the thermal exchange bladder, is positioned immediately adjacent the chest therapy site. As described in more detail below, the thermal exchange bladder has a concave inner contour adapted to fit the shape of the chest therapy site, and the bladder envelope is flexibly configured to take on the shape of the thermal exchange bladder. Therefore, the therapy pad may closely contact a substantial portion of the chest therapy site. The strapping system is configured to enhance the contact between the bladder envelope and the chest therapy site. To this end, the strapping system includes adjustable shoulder straps 196 and adjustable side straps 198. The adjustable shoulder straps and the adjustable side straps cooperate to secure the bladder envelope in a fitted position adjacent the chest therapy site.

[0083] The shoulder straps and side straps may be selectively tightened and loosened while the therapy pad is in a generally fitted position, to customize a particular therapy and achieve a better fit. As shown, the side straps are coupled to the bladder envelope at opposing “ends” of the bladder envelope, thereby providing a mechanism for adjusting the tension of the strapping system from the sides of the bladder envelope, which effectively pulls the envelope around the therapy site to enhance contact of the therapy site with the therapy pad. The shoulder straps are coupled to a back portion of the side straps, and are configured to extend over the shoulders, on either side of a neck, and to releasably attach to the bladder envelope. The length and tension of the shoulder straps may be adjusted to position the height of the therapy pad. The connection location between the shoulder straps and the side straps and/or the bladder envelope may be adjusted to comfortably accommodate different chest and/or neck sizes. To this end, the strapping system is configured to selectively improve the fit and the compression of the therapy pad.

[0084]FIG. 20 shows a top plan view of thermal exchange bladder 192. The thermal exchange bladder has an outer perimeter, shown generally at 200. The outer perimeter is defined by exterior perimeter portions 200 a, 200 b, 200 c, 200 d, 200 e, 200 f, and indentations 202 and 204. As shown, indentations 202 and 204 are respectively defined by rectilinear perimeter portions 202 a and 202 b, and 204 a and 204 b. It should be understood that the illustrated embodiment is provided as an example, and thermal exchange bladders may have perimeters with different shapes, including more or fewer indentations, which may be configured differently than those shown in FIG. 20. As shown in FIG. 20, indentations 202 and 204 are open, meaning that there is relatively more space between perimeter portions 202 a and 202 b, and 204 a and 204 b, than there is in a closed configuration, as shown in FIG. 21. In some embodiments, as is shown in FIG. 21, the perimeter may be completely closed, meaning that there is substantially no space between perimeter portions 202 a and 202 b, and 204 a and 204 b, thus effectively positioning perimeter portions 200 b and 200 c, and 200 e and 200 f, as substantially uninterrupted continuous perimeter portions.

[0085] As shown in FIGS. 12, 16, and 20, a thermal exchange bladder is generally flat when it is in an open configuration, although the thermal exchange bladder may be made from a flexible material, which allows the bladder to be temporarily bent or otherwise flexed from a flat shape. In other words, in an open configuration the thermal exchange bladder is not predisposed to have a concave shape, or similar three-dimensional shape. In a closed position, such as those shown in FIGS. 13, 17, and 21, the thermal exchange bladders have concave inner contours, which are shaped to respectively fit shoulder, jaw, and chest therapy sites. FIGS. 14, 18, and 22, which are cross sections of respective closed therapy pads worn next to shoulder, jaw, and chest therapy sites, show concave inner contours 144, 176, and 206. Indentations of the therapy pads may be fixed in a closed position, giving the thermal exchange bladders a permanent concave inner contour. The indentations may be fixed by stitching, gluing, welding, or similar fastening means. In some embodiments, the indentations may be molded together, and in some embodiments, the bladder may be directly molded with a concave inner contour.

[0086] Shaping the thermal exchange bladder with a concave inner contour adapted to closely correspond to a particular therapy site increases the contact between the therapy pad and the therapy site, which may increase the effectiveness of applied therapies. Furthermore, fixing a bladder in a predefined shape helps ensure that the therapy pad is correctly positioned to further improve applied therapies. The thermal exchange bladder may be constructed from flexible materials that allow the bladder to flex from a predefined contoured shape to more closely correspond to a particular therapy site, such as when a strapping system is tightened to secure the therapy pad adjacent the therapy site.

[0087] Using closed indentations as a means for forming concave inner contours provides a great deal of design freedom, while limiting the cost of manufacturing the bladders. Indentations with different sizes, and shapes, as well as different positioning, facilitate forming bladders with virtually any predefined shape. The bladders may be manufactured flat, which limits costs. After flat bladders are formed, the indentations may be closed, thus giving the bladders a predefined contour.

[0088] The therapy system, with various assorted therapy pads, may be used to treat a wide range of conditions, including injured muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments etc. Furthermore, other conditions may be treated, such as mastitis or breasts that are sore from menstruation. The therapy system may also be used as a preventative remedy, for example the therapy system may be used during child birth to help alleviate discomfort during labor as well as help minimize resulting soreness and/or discomfort. For example, providing a cold treatment to a recipient's back during child birth may help cool the recipient, thus alleviating immediate discomfort, as well as subsequent soreness.

[0089] Contrast therapy system 10 may include a power supply, such as 92 of FIG. 3, for providing power to various components of the system, such as a heater, cooler, pump, thermostat, display, etc. In some embodiments, the power supply may provide alternating current, while in other embodiments, the power supply may provide direct current. Some embodiments may be configured to operate with either AC or DC power. For example, the contrast therapy system may include a DC heater and pump designed to draw power from either a battery or an electrical outlet via an AC/DC converter. Batteries used to power the contrast therapy system may be externally connected to the system, and/or housed within the system. The contrast therapy system may be powered from alternative power sources as well.

[0090]FIG. 23 shows, generally at 210, a method of administering contrast therapy to a therapy recipient. Method 210 includes, at 212, providing a volume of a relatively hot fluid. As explained above, a fluid may be received by a hot reservoir, where it may be heated by a heater. The relatively hot fluid may be virtually any temperature, with temperatures of approximately 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit being suitable for many applications. The method further includes, at 214, providing a volume of a relatively cold fluid. Fluid may be received by a cold reservoir, where it may be cooled. In some embodiments, an ice slurry is used to cool fluid passing through the cold reservoir, and in some embodiments a cooler is used. The cold fluid may be virtually any temperature (cooler than the hot fluid), with temperatures of approximately 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit being suitable for many applications.

[0091] At 216, the method includes selecting relative amounts of the hot and cold fluids to mix as a therapy fluid with a desired initial therapy temperature. A mixture of hot and cold fluids with a specific ratio may be selected with a mixing valve, or similar mechanism, that is configured to receive the hot and cold fluids, and pass the mixture of the hot and cold fluids as a therapy fluid. The ratio of hot to cold fluid in the therapy fluid may range from 100% hot fluid to 100% cold fluid, as well as any intermediate ratio. The temperature of the therapy fluid corresponds to the ratio of hot and cold fluids mixed, with greater percentages of hot fluid resulting in higher temperatures, and greater percentages of cold fluid resulting in cooler temperatures. The therapy fluid's maximum temperature is approximately the temperature of the hot fluid, and is achieved by selecting a ratio of all hot fluid and no cold fluid. Similarly, the therapy fluid's minimum temperature is approximately the temperature of the cold fluid, and is achieved by selecting a ratio of all cold fluid and no hot fluid.

[0092] As shown at 218, the method further includes circulating the therapy fluid with the initial therapy temperature through a therapy pad. The therapy fluid may be circulated in a pulsing stream, so as to impart a vibration that is useful in providing a therapeutic massage. Of course, the flow may instead be smooth. At 220, the method includes applying the therapy pad to the therapy recipient. The temperature of the therapy fluid may be translated through the therapy pad to the therapy recipient. For example, if the initial temperature of the therapy fluid is relatively hot, for instance 105 degrees Fahrenheit, the therapy pad may be used to heat a therapy site on the therapy recipient. Similarly, a therapy fluid with a relatively cold therapy temperature, such as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, may be used to cool a therapy site. The pad may be applied to a therapy recipient by using an integrated elastic wrap to compress the therapy pad around a therapy site, which may add to the benefits of the treatment. In other embodiments, a therapy pad with a strapping system may be used. In some embodiments, a thermal exchange bladder with a predefined shape may be used.

[0093] The method further includes, at 222, returning the therapy fluid to at least one of the volume of hot fluid and the volume of cold fluid. Returning the therapy fluid to either or both of the volumes of hot and cold fluids allows the therapy fluid to be recycled. The returned therapy fluid may then be heated and/or cooled, and eventually may be recirculated to the therapy pad. In this manner, a limited volume of fluid in a system may be used to provide an ongoing therapy. The fluid may be repeatedly heated and/or cooled, and thus the character of the treatment may be continually changed.

[0094] As shown at 224, the method may also include selecting relative amounts of the hot and cold fluids to mix as a therapy fluid with a desired contrast therapy temperature different than the initial therapy temperature. By changing the relative amounts of hot and cold fluids, the resulting temperature of the therapy fluid may be changed, which changes the therapy received by the therapy recipient. It is within the scope of the invention to make such temperature changes quickly, such as in under a minute, which may result in an average temperature change greater than 1 degree Fahrenheit per second. At 226, the method may further include circulating the therapy fluid with the contrast therapy temperature through the therapy pad. Circulating the therapy fluid with the contrast therapy temperature allows the therapy recipient to experience a cold treatment immediately after a hot treatment or a hot treatment immediately after a cold treatment. It should be understood that the period of change between respective treatments is ideally very small, such as under one minute. This process may be repeated one or more times, and each time the relative amounts of hot and cold fluids may be selected to result in a desired therapy temperature.

[0095] While the present invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to the foregoing preferred embodiments, those skilled in the art will understand that many variations may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the following claims. The description of the invention should be understood to include all novel and non-obvious combinations of elements described herein, and claims may be presented in this or a later application to any novel and non-obvious combination of these elements. Where the claims recite “a” or “a first” element or the equivalent thereof, such claims should be understood to include incorporation of one or more such elements, neither requiring nor excluding two or more such elements.

Referenced by
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US8414631Feb 13, 2008Apr 9, 2013Thermotek, Inc.System and method for cooled airflow for dermatological applications
US8460355Apr 5, 2007Jun 11, 2013Stryker CorporationNegative/positive pressure, thermal energy therapy device
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Classifications
U.S. Classification607/104, 607/108
International ClassificationA61F7/02, A61F7/00
Cooperative ClassificationA61F2007/0018, A61F7/02, A61F2007/0056, A61F2007/0054, A61F2007/0296, A61F7/0085
European ClassificationA61F7/02
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Effective date: 20051108
May 12, 2003ASAssignment
Owner name: SOREMARTEC S.A., BELGIUM
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Effective date: 20030323