Ice Packs for Pain Relief

woman with ice pack on ankle

woman with ice pack on ankle

Ice packs can reduce the inflammation associated with painful backs and aching joints and give lasting pain relief. In my experience I have found the use of “Ice Packs” to be much more effective in the reduction of pain and/or inflammation than the application of various heat treatments.

Heat inflames an already inflammed problem and any reduction in pain is usually very brief and the pain returns quickly after the effect of the heat wears off. It may be more desirable to use heat on a painful back for instance, but it is most likely keeping the problem there by constantly inflamming the area every time you apply the heat.

Ice will reduce the inflammation and reduce the pain together. It may relieve pain more slowly than heat will, but because it reduces the inflammation as well, it is a more permanent solution than heat, and does not have the associated risk of constantly inflamming the problem.

How to use ice treatment for pain relief

Firstly you can use any of the following for your ice therapy:

  • Gel ice-pack
  • Packet of frozen peas
  • Hand towel, soaked in cold water (partially wrung out)
  • Wheat bag (commercially produced)
  • Rice bag (i.e. a sock filled with rice)

Cooling your ice-pack down…

All of the above should have been in a fridge for at least three hours to cool them down. They do not have to be placed in the freezing compartment to be cold enough to use as an ice pack. For the “gel ice-pack” and the “frozen peas” never place them directly on the skin (you may get a frost-bite burn if you do!) I suggest wrapping them in a thin layer of cotton such as a pillow-case or a tee-shirt or a very thin tea-towel (one layer only between you and the skin). The cold wet towel can be placed inside a plastic bag and then inside the cotton covering. The wheat-bag and rice-bag can be applied directly to the skin as they have their own fabric covering.

If the pain is there daily, then apply the icepack to the painful area…

  • 3 times per day, morning, early evening and last thing at night.
  • Apply for 15 to 20 minutes per application (no longer!)
  • Do this every day, and continue for a few days after the pain has disappeared.

If you follow the above regimen, you should notice a sudden reduction in pain within a few hours. As I said above, ice may take a little longer to reduce the pain, but it often is more permanent and long-lasting than using heat as a treatment for pain relief.

If you have any questions about the application of ice-packs for pain-relief, then please contact me by ringing 077-1024-4390 and I will be glad to talk you through the procedure.


Tom Harper has been actively involved in promoting pain relief treatment for over twenty years. He is the Registered Osteopath at the Nuneaton Osteopathic Clinic and has interests in sports injuries and headache and migraine treatment and is a keen cyclist and fell-walker.

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