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Ice Packs and Cold Packs – Cold Therapy

Ice packs and cold packs are used in managing symptoms of inflammation – pain, tenderness, redness, and swelling. The terms ice pack and cold pack are often used interchangeably. However, some refer to cold packs, specifically the commercial cold hydrocollator packs, as one way of providing cold therapy. In physical therapy either of the two can be used depending on which is readily available.

Ice Pack

An ice pack is usually used to treat acute injuries where pain and swelling are present. To make an ice pack, crushed ice or ice cubes are placed in a plastic bag and wrapped with a damp towel and applied over the injured body part. Crushed ice is more preferable than cubed ice as the former can easily be molded over the injured area.

Your physical therapist may cover the pack with dry towel to minimize loss of cold into the environment. How long the ice pack is applied may vary. But, often, 20 minutes of application is enough to achieve its physiologic and therapeutic effects.

Cold Pack

Like ice packs, cold packs are used for acute injuries. Cold packs are also called cold hydrocollator packs or commercial cold gel packs, which are available in different sizes.

Application of commercial cold pack is similar to ice pack application.

NOTE: If you have cold hypersensitivity or a circulatory problem, ice or cold pack application should be avoided. It is important that you tell your physical therapist about conditions that you might have where cold therapy may be contraindicated.

See Also

Bursitis and Tendinitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Reviewed March 2011. Accessed: July 15, 2011 < http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bursitis/>

Prentice, William. Therapeutic Modalities for Physical Therapists. 2nd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003

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Conditions / Injuries | Physical Therapy | Health and Wellness

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