Ice packs can help reduce pain, inflammation, and promote healing. But it needs to be done correctly. Too little icing will have minimal to no effect. To much, can irritate the skin or, at the very worst, cause localized tissue damage. We've done our best to outline simple and straightforward instructions the correct icing techniques.

In addition, we have listed some of our favorite "homemade" approaches to icing. The techniques are by far the lowest cost approach and will get the job done.

That said, we also put together a few of our most trusted cold therapy products for those individuals who prefer a quality icing solution they can trust.

KNEE ICING

All You Need to Know

HOW TO ICE

WHEN AND WHY TO ICE

Cryotherapy (applying ice to an area) may be used for strains, sprains and overuse injuries. The goal is to help decrease localized inflammation and swelling. It can also reduce pain for a short period.

There is some controversy as to whether icing helps speed up the healing process. In general, the answer is no. However, in cases of a very acute injury (defined as an injury that occured in the last 24-48 hours), early and regular icing may promote a faster recovery by allowing the body's healing mechanisms to access the injured area more effectively.

 

For this reason, it is recommended you apply ice as soon as possible following an injury.

HOW TO ICE CORRECTLY

  • Be Early: As stated above, get the ice on as fast as possible after an injury.

  • Use a Skin Barrier: Place a towel between your skin and the ice. This will help avoid any damage to the underlying skin.

  • Elevate: When possible, keep the injured area above the heart. This will help reduce the swelling more effectively.

  • 20 Minutes Max: Icing for longer than 20 minutes can lead to damage to the underlying tisssue.

  • Take Breaks: Alternate icing and resting your skin. The general rule is 20/30: Ice for 20 minutes and take a break for 30 minutes. Repeat.

  • Be Consistent: After an acute injury, try to ice as consistently as possible for the first 24-48 hours (taking the 30 minute breaks.) Never sleep while icing.

  • Repetitive Motion Injuries: If you have an overuse injury, we recommend 1) Taking a short break from the activity, 2) Icing consistently for 24-48 hours and simultaneously, 3) Performing the recommended exercise program.

OPTIONS FOR ICING

  • Ice Bags: Good old fashioned ice bags can often do the job. Fill a plastic, sealable bad with ice. Either break the ice up, or add a little water to help it conform to your body. 

  • Frozen Foods: This is one of our favorites. Grab a couple bags of frozen peas and place them around the injured area. We did have one person tell us this failed miserably after the "peas ran all over the place." So we'll say it - be sure to not open the bags before applying! But seriously, once the frozen food has been used for icing, do not eat the food in the future. It's now officially just for icing. 

  • Homemade Ice Pack: We love this trick. Fill a plastic freezer bag with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol plus 2 cups of water. Do your best to get as much air out as possible of the bag before sealing it up. Place that bad into another bag (this helps minimize leaking) and leave it in the freezer for a couple hours. Congratulations, you made your own ice pack!

  • Commercial Ice Packs: While all of the above works just fine, many people prefer an over the counter ice bag that is effective and easy to reuse many times over. See below for our recommended options. 

The Best Ice Pack

Almost every site buries this in fine print, but we think it's important to state clearly: Our reviews include resources and products that we trust and believe are useful to our users. If you buy a product through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. It's how we keep the lights on and Physiobot free. Now let's get to it!

WHO

Recommended for individuals looking for a professional-grade gel cold pack that conforms easily around a painful joint. 

 

FEATURES

  • Reusable, stays cold up to an hour

  • Two-in-one product. Can deliver heat therapy as well.

  • Built in velcro straps allows for easy fit and compression

  • Full 360 coverage around knee/ankle/elbow etc.

WHY WE LIKE IT

Large Soft Gel Pack for Knee 360 Coverage (say that three times fast) impressed us. This professional-grade ice pack easily adjusts over the painful joint and uses a three-inch wide elastic straps to ensure the perfect fit. We also liked that the straps allows users to apply moderate compression around the joint, which is useful to control swelling. 

We were also impressed with the lightweight nature of this product. Gel packs are traditionally a good bit heavier than this model, which can be uncomfortable on a painful joint. The pack does an excellent job retaining its flexibility after being left in the freezer, which helps ensure a good fit. This is a two-in-one gel pack, meaning it can also be placed in the microwave and warmed up for a heat therapy option. Our preferred option for individuals looking for an effective ice pack they can use repeatedly and effectively.

WHO

This is the cold-pack you'll often find in PT clinics. Recommended for individuals looking for a simple and basic icing option they can trust.

FEATURES

  • Resusable, stays cold up to 30 minutes

  • Used by many PT clinics

  • Not for heat

  • Basic option, no straps and requires you add a skin barrier

  • Double-stitching minimized chance of leaks

 

WHY WE LIKE IT

The FlexiKold Gel Pack's claim to fame is it's relatively thin profile due to it's proprietary gel. It retains cold quite well for a 20-30 minute window, which is adequate for most needs. In clinics, the staff utilizes additional straps and towels to provide the necessary skin barrier. In the home it can be a bit awkward to get the fit just right.

It is just for icing (no heat.) More basic than the Cool Relief 360, but excellent value for individuals looking for a simpler option.