There are advantages and disadvantages to using either of these
With most injuries involving the back, gel packs are easy to use.
Ice bags are better for ankles and knees for a longer cold period.
Strengths: Cold gel packs contain a special gel that can be frozen and refrozen. Just store the packs in the freezer until needed. The gel remains flexible when frozen, allowing it to contour to the injured body part and you can lay on it for your injured back.1
Weaknesses: These do not stay cold as long as ice packs, but cold gel packs will cool the skin faster than ice bags and so deserve greater caution. Never apply them directly to the skin–always wrap them in a towel or pillow case.2
Application time: 10-20 minutes.
Ice Bags: Should I use a Bag of Ice?
Ice bags are the old standby for applying deep, penetrating cold. Fill a bag made of thick plastic, rubber, or moisture-proof fabric with ice and apply it directly to the skin. The cooling effect of ice bags lasts long and is more effective than some of the superficial methods like ice massage. If you use a regular plastic food bag, place a thin damp towel (like a dish towel) between the bag and your skin. See How to make a home ice bag.
Unable to use under your back when lying on your back. It is also difficult to get the ice bag to mold around your body part for full contact with the ice. The bag will mold better if you don’t fill it completely with ice or if you use crushed ice. An alternative is to use a bag of frozen peas or corn. The bag will conform nicely to the injured part of the body. Place a thin towel between the bag and the skin. Many athletes do not use anything between the skin and the bag, but for the average person a pillow case or wet towel is recommended.1
10 to 30 minutes, depending on the body part and comfort.3 Other treatments include ice massage, Game Ready, immersion, and contrast bath for chronic swelling. At AthletePlus, we have found nothing better than the Game Ready for getting athletes back in the game. We hope this article assisted in deciding “Should I use a bag of ice or buy a gel cold pack”.
This article is provided for information and entertainment purposes only. The content is provided “as is” for general information and to educate the reader. The article is not intended to serve as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content should not be considered complete and should not be relied on to suggest a course of treatment for a particular individual suffering from a particular problem, issue or medical need. The reader should always consult with a qualified healthcare provider familiar with the reader’s general health, background and conditions and follow the advice given by the health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting a new diet, treatment or fitness program. Do not delay seeking specific advice or care or disregard the advice of your healthcare provider based on information contained in this article.
So what should you do?
The convenience of being able to re-use the cold gel pack makes this a great choice. These cold packs are now available in many discount and drug stores.
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