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How do I Choose the Best Reusable Hot-Cold Pack?

By Stephen Holliday
Updated May 17, 2024
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If you think it might be helpful to use heat therapy or ice therapy for a variety of ailments, you might want to choose the best reusable hot-cold pack from among a wide variety available on the market. The choice should be driven in part by its intended use and the cost. As with many products, a reusable hot-cold pack's ease of use, its versatility and the quality of the materials generally determine its cost. If the pack features a covering that is adjustable and provides full movement and compression, for example, the reusable hot-cold pack’s cost will be at the high end of the spectrum even though the actual hot-cold gel or visco-elastic material might be the same as that of an inexpensive reusable hot-cold pack. To choose the best one, simply choose the one that will provide the best treatment for the price you are willing to pay.

Virtually all of these packs use some type of gel or visco-elastic material as the hot-cold medium. This gel usually is contained in plastic and then inserted into varying types of coverings. These coverings vary from simple cloth envelopes to very high-tech, adjustable and breathable coverings that allow full movement and often provide compression.

Hot-cold packs that use gels and visco-elastic materials can be cooled in a refrigerator or frozen in a freezer. It can be heated in a microwave, whether in water or without water, or it can be heated in water boiled on a stove top. There are several reusable hot-cold packs that use packs of small beads made of a thermal-retaining material, usually contained in cloth envelopes of various configurations based on the intended use. Bead material, although it can be chilled in a freezer, is generally intended for moist heat therapy rather than ice therapy, however. For practical purposes, if you need equally effective hot and cold therapy, reusable packs using gel or visco-elastic material represent an appropriate choice.

Although gels and visco-elastic materials can be frozen and heated many times, the hot-cold media are contained in plastic envelopes that degrade with use, so you must exercise care in the handling of these packs. The usable life of these packs is determined more by care in handling than whether the hot-cold material is gel or visco-elastic. After an indeterminate number of uses, even the most expensive reusable hot-cold pack will require replacement. Most quality hot-cold packs allow you to replace the part containing the gel or other hot-cold medium without having to purchase the covering material or an entire pack.

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Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Dec 29, 2013

@donasmrs-- You should try a different brand. There are some very good quality products out there. I've been using a hot-cold pack for a few months now and I haven't had any problems with it.

By donasmrs — On Dec 29, 2013

@ZipLine-- I think the gel packs work well as cold packs, but not so much as hot packs. At least, I haven't had a good experience with them. Hot-cold packs can be frozen or microwaved but they don't hold up to microwaving too well. I've had a hot-cold pack burst while in the microwave. The gel came out and I had to throw it away.

Also, gel backs don't heat evenly. The sides get very hot, and one can burn fingers removing it from the microwave. But the heat only lasts for half an hour.

By ZipLine — On Dec 28, 2013

Gel reusable heat and cold packs are great. Before, I used to buy one-time use, instant hot packs and instant cold packs separately. These don't cost a lot but since I need to use them on a regular basis, I would use all of them in less than a month. So it was starting to cost a lot. And the instant packs only work for twenty minutes maximum.

I bought several gel heat and cold packs recently. I'm so happy with them. They are effective for far longer and I've definitely saved money this way.

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