Gel filling remains flexible when frozen and molds to contours. Freezes quickly and stays cold for hours at a time. Robust nylon cover and double reinforced stitching prevents wetness and leaks. Washable. Recommended by physical therapists. Available in multiple sizes.
No straps to hold it in place. A handful of users felt it could stay cold for longer.
Extra-thick nylon exterior with double-seam construction for durability. Soft-touch vinyl is easy to clean. Pack’s velcro material makes securing optional straps on arms or legs quick and easy. Flexible when frozen. Microwavable.
No notable negatives, though as with all gel packs, these don’t stay as cold as solid ice packs for extended periods of time.
Flexible and contouring. Soft outer material boosts user comfort. Stitched edges improve durability and prevent leaking. Freezes in under an hour. Can be microwaved or submerged in hot water for heat therapy. Available in a variety of sizes. Attractive price point.
Doesn't stay warm very long when used for heat therapy. No straps.
Cold pack fits into an insulated sleeve for an extended cooling effect and superior comfort. Long nylon sleeve stretches to fit almost anywhere. Secure hook-and-loop fastener. Flexible when frozen. Versatile sleeved design allows the cold pack to be replaced if necessary. Affordable. Comes in multiple sizes.
Some users felt that the included ice pack didn't do a stellar job staying cold.
Non-irritating vinyl shell paired with a nontoxic silica gel filling is safe for all ages. Remains pliable when frozen, delivering contouring pain relief. Freezes relatively quickly. Conveniently available in a wide variety of sizes. Reasonably priced.
The shell could be thicker. Multiple users experienced issues with split seams and leaking.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
When it comes to sports injuries, nasty knocks, sprains, and twists, cold therapy is your first line of defense against inflammation and tissue damage. But a bag of frozen peas isn't your only option. Cold therapy packs are a far more convenient way to quell pain and minimize swelling, and most are reusable to boot.
Available in a multitude of sizes and shapes, cold therapy packs can be applied to just about any area of the body, and most are pliable to provide maximum contact over muscle contours and joints. However, finding the perfect one amid hundreds of options can be tough. What size? Straps or no straps? Which features can help prevent leaks? Should you consider an option that can be used for both heat and cold therapy?
If you need a hand choosing a cold therapy pack, you're in luck. Our buying guide is crammed with helpful advice, tips, tricks, and product recommendations to make finding the best cold therapy pack a breeze.
Both cold and heat therapy can be used to manage pain caused by injuries or chronic inflammatory conditions. However, each has its own distinctive set of benefits, and getting the timing just right is key to achieving optimal results. Let's take a closer look at the difference between heat and cold therapy to find out how each can help at different stages of recovery.
Cold therapy: Also known as cryotherapy, cold therapy slows blood flow to the injured site and can significantly decrease swelling. Cold therapy also acts as an excellent, albeit temporary, local anesthetic. Cold therapy is most effective when applied within 48 hours of sustaining an injury.
Heat therapy: On the opposite end of the spectrum is heat therapy. Rather than slowing blood flow, heat therapy boosts circulation and relaxes stiff muscles. Heat therapy is best used to ease pain and promote healing once any inflammation has already been treated with cold therapy. Heat therapy is also ideal for chronic pain caused by old injuries or arthritis.
Reusable cold therapy packs are typically filled with gel or clay, while disposables contain a combination of water and cooling agents.
Regular cold therapy packs: The average reusable cold therapy pack is filled with gel or clay and serves a singular purpose: to provide cooling, inflammation-fighting relief.
Heat and cold therapy packs: Hands down the most versatile, heat and cold therapy packs are constructed of materials that can be heated or frozen. This conveniently allows you to alternate between heat and cold therapy using a single product.
Disposable cold therapy packs: These handy packs are primarily designed for emergencies or use on the go and require no freezing. Most consist of two layers: the outer layer is filled with water while the inner layer contains cooling agents. In the event of an injury, a shake or squeeze of the pack activates the cooling agent.
The area of the body and extent of the injury will determine the best size of cold therapy pack. While smaller packs are ideal for joints or tendons, larger cold therapy packs provide fuller coverage for areas like the back, hips, thighs, or arms. Longer cold therapy packs also come in handy if you need something that can comfortably be wrapped around a limb or draped across the neck and shoulders.
If you need a cold pack for a single injury or just want to be prepared for any eventuality, durability might not be too much of a concern. However, if you're an active individual who frequently pushes your body to the limits at the gym, on the sports field, or at a physically demanding job, it's wise to choose a reliable cold therapy pack that won't let you down when you need it most.
Not surprisingly, the materials are directly linked to a cold therapy pack’s durability. Those with a thin plastic shell and glued seams are far more likely to spring a leak than those with a more robust construction. For superior durability and leak-free confidence, look for a thick plastic shell or one that's backed with nylon, as well as securely stitched edges.
Flexibility: Although it’s frequently overlooked, flexibility is an incredibly helpful feature. A cold therapy pack that's able to mold to the contours of your body is not only more comfortable to use, but it also makes sure that dips, curves, and creases also receive cooling contact.
Straps: It can be frustrating and uncomfortable to sit still or remain in an awkward position while holding a cold therapy pack in place. Of course, securing a cold therapy pack with a bandage is always an option, but achieving a secure hold that won't slip or slide can be tricky. Cold therapy packs that come with attached straps allow you cover the affected area and securely fasten the pack, so there's no need to put your daily routine on hold.
Reinforced seams: When it comes to avoiding annoying leaks, it's best to opt for a cold therapy pack with reinforced sealed or sewn seams. While adhesives can eventually begin to peel away due to drastic temperature changes and moisture, sealed seams and stitching will remain in place (unless damaged, of course), keeping cold therapy packs leak-free for longer.
Soft-touch cover: Covers and sleeves certainly aren't a make-or-break feature, but they can make for a more streamlined experience overall. While plastic-covered cold therapy packs need to be wrapped in a towel before being applied to the skin, models that come with a fabric cover or sleeve offer a protective layer, conveniently allowing you to skip this step.
The average cold therapy pack is relatively inexpensive, with prices escalating along with size, features, and quality.
Inexpensive: Smaller cold therapy packs, with or without straps, typically cost between $5 and $10. Multipacks or more durable single cold therapy packs can be found at the higher end of this price range.
Mid-range: Midsize to large single cold therapy packs, heat and cold therapy packs, and multipacks of smaller disposable and reusable models tend to be priced anywhere from $10 to $20.
Expensive: Extra-large cold therapy packs, sizeable heat and cold therapy packs, and generous packs of disposables cost anywhere from $20 to $40.
Q. How often should I use my cold therapy pack?
A. While there's no hard and fast rule regarding application frequency, most experts agree that injuries should be treated with cold therapy every 2 to 4 hours over a period of 24 to 72 hours.
Q. How long does a cold therapy pack take to freeze?
A. Freezing time can vary from product to product, and depends largely on the size of the cold pack, how much filling it contains, and your freezer's temperature. On average, cold therapy packs require a couple hours of cooling before use.
Q. How long do cold therapy packs maintain temperature?
A. A common complaint about cold therapy packs is that they just don't stay cold long enough. However, most medical professionals don't recommend using a cold therapy pack for more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time, so it's no coincidence that that's exactly how long the average cold therapy pack maintains temperature as well. Some most certainly can stay cool longer, but keep in mind that your skin needs a break from the cold.