Physiotherapist recommended Ice Pack Wraps for common injuries

If you’ve ever dealt with a few bumps and bruises as a kid, like a sprained ankle, you’re probably familiar with ice wraps. As soon as the area was clean, it’s likely your parent or guardian slapped an ice pack or ice wrap on the affected body part. And there’s a good reason for this!

Did you know that ice wraps help reduce swelling, accelerate recovery, and decrease pain? In activities, such as calisthenics and CrossFit, where injuries are common, a cold pack is a good item to have on-hand.

With a quick application, long-term swelling is significantly reduced which may lead to a shorter recovery time and less time spent watching from the sidelines. In this article, we’re going to dive into everything ice wraps. How does an ice wrap work? What is the best shoulder ice wrap? Best knee ice wrap? Let’s find out. 

In a hurry? Here are the products: 

ImageProduct
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Hyperice - Shoulder
  • Compact and comfortable
  • Sleek design
  • Non restrictive
  • Compact and comfortable
  • Sleek design
  • Non restrictive
View on Rogue Fitness
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Magic Gel Shoulder Pack
  • Flexible design
  • Contours around the body
  • Can be used on the shoulder, upper back, and lower back
  • Flexible design
  • Contours around the body
  • Can be used on the shoulder, upper back, and lower back
View on Amazon
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Hyperice - Back
  • Optimal compression
  • Sleek design
  • Comfortable fit
  • Optimal compression
  • Sleek design
  • Comfortable fit
View on Rogue Fitness
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Magic Gel Back Pain Relief Gel Pack
  • Works for hot and cold applications
  • Flexible
  • Reusable
  • Works for hot and cold applications
  • Flexible
  • Reusable
View on Amazon
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Rogue Fitness Freeze Sleeve
  • Made with compression fabric
  • Multi-use (can also be used on knee or ankle)
  • Contours to body
  • Made with compression fabric
  • Multi-use (can also be used on knee or ankle)
  • Contours to body
View on Rogue Fitness
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Vive Elbow Ice Pack
  • Hot or cold gel pack
  • Includes four reusable ice packs
  • Flexible Fit
  • Hot or cold gel pack
  • Includes four reusable ice packs
  • Flexible Fit
View on Amazon
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Hyperice - Knee
  • Allows for good range of motion
  • Provides optimal compression
  • Can also be used on shin or calf
  • Allows for good range of motion
  • Provides optimal compression
  • Can also be used on shin or calf
View on Rogue Fitness
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Vive Knee Ice Wrap
  • Hot or cold gel pack
  • Includes three reusable ice packs
  • Machine Washable
  • Hot or cold gel pack
  • Includes three reusable ice packs
  • Machine Washable
View on Amazon
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Vive Ankle Ice Wrap
  • Can be used for hot and cold therapy
  • Flexible and custom fit
  • Breathable material
  • Can be used for hot and cold therapy
  • Flexible and custom fit
  • Breathable material
View on Amazon
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The Coldest Foot Ankle Ice Wrap
  • Flexible ice packs
  • Molds to leg and foot
  • Specifically made for cold therapy applications
  • Flexible ice packs
  • Molds to leg and foot
  • Specifically made for cold therapy applications
View on Amazon

What Is an Ice Pack Wrap?

Maybe you’ve heard of ice packs, but you’re not entirely sure what an ice pack wrap is. An ice wrap is very similar to an ice pack. They both apply the same form of cold therapy. The key difference? An ice wrap pack allows you to secure and wrap the ice around the affected body part. While doing so, it can also apply a bit of compression, knocking down two pieces in the R.I.C.E. method. 

The R.I.C.E. method serves as a go-to first aid approach for various injuries. R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Within the first 72 hours of an injury occurring, these factors are important for guiding recovery and reducing pain.

Read Also: Top 8 Best Self Myofascial Release tools

knee injury(1)

For instance, maybe you overdid it at your last CrossFit session. You’re leaving your workout with a common CrossFit injury; a rotator cuff strain. Luckily, you have a shoulder ice wrap in your freezer at home ready for application. You get home and place a cloth between your skin and the ice wrap to ensure your skin is protected, then you wrap it up with the velcro portion of the ice wrap.

Leaving the ice wrap on for 10-20 minutes at a time should suffice. Basically, you want the ice on the affected body part long enough that the injured area goes numb. In turn, you face a shorter recovery time, less pain, and reduced swelling. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

The fact that you can wrap the ice pack around your injury also means you don’t have to sit fully still while icing. Rest is important, but if you have an injured shoulder, you don’t necessarily need to lay perfectly still to optimize healing.

There’s nothing wrong with your legs in this scenario. And you can still get up and answer the door. Or you can go and crack a window open when you need to. You can do all this while taking the proper care when it comes to injury recovery. 

Related: Best Percussion Massage Guns to speed up your recovery

How Can Ice Wraps Help Recovery? 

Let’s dive a little deeper here. How exactly does cold therapy work? 

Hot and cold therapy are frequent go-to’s in the exercise and injury rehab world. During the many years I worked as a Kinesiologist in a physical therapy clinic, we used cold therapy on almost every single patient.

Whereas hot therapy increases blood flow and improves circulation, cold therapy actually constricts blood flow. When an ice wrap is applied to an injured area, the blood vessels narrow. This restricts the amount of blood and fluid flooding into this area. In turn, this prevents swelling, which may inhibit recovery efforts as you heal. 

shoulder injury

For example, let’s go back to that shoulder example. You’ve strained a rotator cuff muscle during CrossFit. Right after the injury, the area began to swell and became very painful.

As soon as you could, you applied an ice wrap. Upon application of this ice wrap, the blood vessels around your shoulder constrict. While, at first, there was a bit of swelling, it doesn’t really get any worse. This is because there is less fluid and blood rushing to the area - all thanks to cold therapy. 

On top of this, you’ll have temporary pain relief. This is because the cold application decreases neural activity, giving your nervous system and you a break from those annoying pain signals. Usually, for all of this to happen, the ice wrap pack only needs to be applied to the body part for 10-20 minutes. 

Read Also: The Benefits of Foam Rolling and choosing the best foam roller

So, how does this help recovery in the long-run exactly?

Because cold therapy works to reduce initial swelling, your body requires less time to remove this excess fluid from the affected body part. As a result, you are able to move your injured area through a wider range of motion sooner.

At the same time, this is dependent on the severity of your injury and your pain since you never want to move an injured body part past the point of pain (this may actually cause further injury). 

Read Also: Exercises you should avoid after 40 - Do these instead

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Most acute injuries, with proper cold therapy application, will resolve within 4-8 weeks. The rule of thumb is to apply the ice wrap throughout the day when needed. Usually, we recommend applying the ice wrap for 10-20 minutes, with at least 45 minutes in-between applications. 

All in all, a reusable ice wrap is a great product for any active individual. Whether you’re a regular gym-goer or CrossFitter, injuries happen even when you might be trying your best to prevent them.

And an ice wrap can help you heal and recover. However, it does come with limitations. This is why rehab experts, like myself, sometimes recommend alternating between hot and cold therapy. 

Hot therapy, compared to cold therapy, relaxes tight muscles and aids in healing damaged tissue. It does this by increasing blood flow to the affected area - something that cold therapy doesn’t do.

In some situations, we want to relax the muscles, reduce pain, accelerate healing, and decrease swelling. This is where both types of therapy come into play and might be more appropriate over just cold compress.

If you’re worried about the rate at which your injury is healing or the pain is severe, the best thing you can do is get it checked out by your doctor or physical therapist. Specifically, physical therapists can help guide your recovery with the right care, manual therapy, and prescribed exercises. That way, you can get the pain relief you need and deserve.

Read Also: Knee Wraps vs Knee Sleeves - Know when to use each

What happens if you don’t use cold therapy when you should have? Simply put, you’ll probably face a longer recovery time. The best thing you can do going forward is to take the proper care when it comes to your injury and not rush into jumping back into your regular activities.

One of the biggest factors in healing is time, so give your body the time it needs. Don’t get back out there until the pain has fully subsided.

Read Also: Common CrossFit Injuries & How To Avoid Them

Ice Wraps Based on body part injury

In the following sections, you’ll find our product recommendations for the best ice wraps per body part. 

Ice Wrap For Shoulder Injuries

Related: Bench Press Shoulder pain and when to be wary

Rogue Fitness Hyperice Shoulder Wrap

Key Features

  • Compact
  • Comfortable
  • 3MM Premium Grade Compression Neoprene
  • Non-restrictive
  • Reusable and machine-washable
  • Anti-microbial
Hyperice Shoulder ice wrap

How to Use:

Purchase either a right or left Hyperice Shoulder Wrap, depending on your needs. Leave in the freezer for a minimum of 12 hours before use. Remove the Hyperice Fuel cap. With the Hyperice Fuel positioned upright, connect it to the empty Hyperice Ice Cell.

Do this by engaging the threads. Then, gently turn the Hyperice Fuel upside-down and press the air release valve. This allows the synthetic ice to go into the Hyperice Ice Cell. Put the cap back on the Ice Cell. Place the wrap comfortably on your shoulder, securing the sleeve portion around your arm.

Ideal For:

Rotator Cuff Injuries, AC joint injuries or pain, shoulder overuse, and tendonitis.

Magic Gel Shoulder Ice Pack

Key Features:

  • Flexible design
  • Contours around the body
  • Can be used on the shoulder, upper back, and lower back
  • Stays cold for up to 22 minutes
  • Reusable
Magic Gel Shoulder Reusable Ice Pack

How to Use:

Place the ice wrap in the freezer for a couple of hours. Remove and place a cloth between the ice pack and your skin. Fasten the ice wrap to your shoulder using the two straps available. 

Ideal For:

Post-surgery recovery, tendonitis, bursitis, impingement injuries, and rotator cuff tears.

Hyperice - Back

Key Features:

  • Provides compression and support
  • Comfortable
  • Machine Washable
  • Two-layer design for optimal compression
Hyperice wrap for back

How to Use:

Leave in the freezer for at least 12 hours before use. Remove the Hyperice Fuel cap. With the Hyperice Fuel positioned upright, connect it to the empty Hyperice Ice Cell. Do this by engaging the threads. Then, gently turn the Hyperice Fuel upside-down and press the air release valve. Put the cap back on the Ice Cell. Place the wrap comfortably on your low back.

Ideal For:

Back spasms, overuse injuries, back strains, arthritis, SI joint pain or issues, and sciatica.

Magic Gel Back Pain Relief Gel Pack

Key Features:

  • Works for hot and cold applications
  • Flexible
  • Reusable
  • Stay cold for up to 30 minutes
  • Comes with two gel packs
Magic Gel Back pain relief gel pack

How to Use:

Place the gel pack in the freezer for at least a couple of hours. If needed, place a towel or cloth between the gel pack and your lower back. Secure in place using the straps provided. 

Ideal For:

Spinal or cervical discomforts and lower back pain.

Ice Pack Wraps for Elbows 

Rogue Fitness Freeze Sleeve

Key Features:

  • 360-degree compression coverage
  • Six sizes available
  • Can cover arms or legs
  • Contours to body
  • Allows full range of motion
  • Can be used on right or left arms
Rogue Fitness Freeze sleeve for elbow

How to Use:

This sleeve is really easy to use. Simply store it in your freezer for at least 2 hours and then slide it on the desired area, such as the elbow, for up to 20 minutes.

Ideal For:

Joint and muscle discomforts or pains in the elbows, such as golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow.

Vive Elbow Ice Pack - Reusable Injury Gel Wrap

Key Features:

  • Hot or cold gel pack
  • Includes four reusable ice packs
  • Flexible fit
  • Straps easy to adjust with one hand
  • Can be used on right or left arms
  • Soft neoprene material
Vive Ice Pack for Elbow and arm

How to Use:

Leave in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Place the ice packs on the elbow and adjust the straps for desired tightness. It should be tight enough that you feel a bit of compression, but not too tight that it cuts off blood circulation. Leave it on for up to 20 minutes.

Ideal For:

Tennis elbow, tendonitis, golfer’s elbow, arthritis, sprains, and strains.

Ice Pack Wraps for Knee Injuries

Hyperice - Knee

Key Features:

  • 3MM Premium Grade Compression Neoprene
  • Non-restrictive
  • Can move knee through the full range of motion
  • Machine-washable
  • Can also be used on the calf for calf strains or shin splints
Hyperice - ice pack for the knee

How to Use:

Leave in the freezer for a minimum of 12 hours before use. Remove the Hyperice Fuel cap. With the Hyperice Fuel positioned upright, connect it to the empty Hyperice Ice Cell. Do this by engaging the threads. Then, gently turn the Hyperice Fuel upside-down and press the air release valve. Put the cap back on the Ice Cell, and secure the wrap around your knee.

Ideal For:

Knee sprains and strains, meniscus strains, ACL or MCL injuries, jumper’s knee, and runner’s knee.

Vive Knee Ice Wrap

Key Features:

  • Hot or cold gel pack
  • Includes three reusable ice packs
  • Targeted relief on front or back of the knee
  • Fits a knee circumference of up to 21 inches
  • Machine washable
  • Flexible fit
Vive Knee Ice Pack Wrap

How to Use:

Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours before use. Place the ice packs into one of the three pockets. Secure with the straps for the desired compression. Leave on for up to 20 minutes.

Ideal For:

Post-surgery, sprains, strains, ACL injury, and arthritis.

Ice Pack Wraps for your Ankles

Read Also: Best Calf Compression Sleeves to prevent injury

Vive Ankle Ice Wrap

Key Features:

  • Can be used for hot and cold therapy
  • Includes three reusable gel packs
  • Shapes to ankle and arch of the foot
  • Machine washable
  • Lightweight and breathable
Vive Ankle Ice Pack Wrap

How to Use:

Leave in the freezer for at least 2 hours, then put the gel packets in desired pockets. Secure the wrap to your foot and ankle using the straps and velcro. Leave on for up to 20 minutes.

Ideal For:

Ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis.

The Coldest Foot Ankle Ice Wrap

Key Features:

  • Flexible ice packs
  • Molds to leg and foot
  • Specifically made for cold therapy applications
  • Two ice packs included
The Coldest Foot Ankle achilles pain relief Ice Wrap

How to Use:

Place the ice packs in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Put the ice packs in the pockets and secure the ankle ice wrap to your ankle and foot with the velcro. Leave on for a maximum of 20 minutes.

Ideal For:

Achilles tendon injuries and plantar fasciitis.

FAQ on Ice Packs and Cold Therapy 

What should you wrap an ice pack in?

Ideally, an ice gel pack should be wrapped in a towel or a few paper towel layers. This creates a barrier between the cold and your skin, preventing your skin from damage.

Why should you wrap ice in a towel before applying?

Wrapping ice in a towel before applying it to your skin creates a protective barrier. The skin can easily become damaged when exposed to extreme temperatures, especially for long durations. If at any point your skin becomes red, blotchy, or raised with an ice application, immediately remove the ice wrap or ice pack.

What do ice wraps not help with?

Ice wraps won’t help relax tense and tight muscles nor will they increase blood flow to the area. If you are looking to address these particular issues, hot therapy is best.

What is the difference between reusable and non-reusable ice wraps?

Reusable ice packs can be used again and again, simply by re-freezing them after use. Meanwhile, a non-reusable ice wrap is usually made cold by a chemical reaction which can only be done once. After use, these ice packs or wraps must be disposed of accordingly.

How long should you wear an ice pack?

Apply the ice pack for 10-20 minutes, or until the area feels numb. Leave at least 45 minutes in between ice applications.

How do you wrap an ice pack? 

Wrapping an ice pack can easily be done by using a towel or a velcro strap to secure it in place. Elastic bandages can also be used to hold the ice pack on the affected area. Usually, ice wraps will come with velcro wraps attached, which allow you to secure the ice to the desired body part.

Can you make a homemade ice pack?

Yes! If buying an ice wrap isn’t currently accessible, you can make your own. The best way to do this is by putting ice cubes in a sealed plastic bag. From there, you can secure the bag to your affected body part with a towel or a bandage. Just make sure you have a towel or cloth between the ice and your skin!

Where can you buy an ice wrap?

You can find ice wraps at most pharmacies and grocery stores. In this post I have identified the best Ice pack wraps for various common body parts that get injured. You can get these specialized wraps on Amazon and Rogue Fitness as listed above. 

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for 4 years. She has an Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched, scientific, and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.

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