Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ice Packs for Injuries

I'm in the middle of a back spasm.

All hail ice packs.

I have a bottom freezer half full of them, left over from my injured knee recovery. Damn, those things are handy.

For injuries that don't involve actual spillage of blood, the first thing that first aid seems to recommend is 1. Stabilize, 2. Ice Packs.

Since I'm not in the medical profession I'll bypass 'stabilize' and move on to Ice Packs.

What I learned during my knee injury is that I'm supposed to ice my injured part no longer than 10-20 minutes. Take the ice pack off and wait a while (half hour to an hour) then repeat. Usually, I only use the pack for 10 minutes and don't have to repeat it. However, in the middle of a back spasm (too much overhead weight lifting) I'm using them for 20 minutes.

After 36-48 hours I've read to alternate the ice pack with heat. I prefer a hot shower, but heating pads or a hot water bottle work just as well.
Icing Phase
So for the last 36 hours I've done as recommended. Intermittent ice packs (not to exceed 20 minutes per session) along with rest, slow walking, and gentle stretching.  It worked and I'm close to pain free today.  I start alternating ice with heat this evening.

Warming Phase
If I can pass on some of my experience with ice packs, here they are:

1. I found the bendable ones from the drugstore made of cubical cells filled with blue liquid to leak.  I don't recommend those. These are sometimes called 'ice blankets'. Note, some brands contain propylene glycol and can raise a rash if they leak. If you go to the hunting section of Walmart or Target and find bendable ones with little square cells, check to make sure they contain water. Even if those don't leak they won't raise a rash or stain your clothes. The ones from the hunting section haven't leaked so far. They appear to be sturdier than the ones from the drugstore.

2. In the drugstore, the ones that I like are filled with a mixture of clay that makes them bendable even when frozen, and are pretty sturdy. Other than clay I don't know what's in them, but I've never had one leak. The ones I bought have a fabric bag to hold the ice pack, and a stretch belt. These can be worn while you're walking around.

3. I found some heavy duty square ice packs made for food storage. The small ones are okay to stick behind my back while I'm driving.

4. The ones that have little 'peas' inside them. Bought one. Used it once. Threw it away. Held the cold about 15 minutes.

So there's my little survival tips for injuries for when you need an ice pack.


  1. I am recovering from a back spasm. Interestingly my doctor recommended applying heat rather than cold for this injury because it was not traumatic. It appeared to work.

    The PT offers me ice, but she says it is optional.

  2. I too am recovering from back spasm. The good news was that after 7 days I felt able to get back on the ice and gentle stroking helped to loosen me up a bit more. I took a lesson after 11days and found that my improved posture meant that my technique was much improved and I achieved more than I anticipated.

  3. Ice is good for reducing swelling of acute injuries. Heat is good for relaxing tightened or stiff muscles with no inflammation, although it's not recommended to apply heat after a workout (ice is best then, to help reduce inflammation).

  4. I find that ice helps when I am having back or knee pain. Actually I read somewhere that there is research showing that compression is more helpful than ice, but for back pain it is difficult to find something to provide compression in the correct spot, so ice tends to do it for me. I tried doing the heat thing after a few days, but it just made everything feel worse. So I ice things. A lot. Not my favorite, but back spasms are even less fun than the cold.

  5. Sometimes ice in a glass with some vodka works too. :)