Gel packs are one of the most efficient products for the application of heat and cold therapies. These therapies are ideal for the treatment of various ailments and injuries in different parts of the body, so that thanks to them you can have a much faster and more pleasant recovery and rehabilitation process. There are several types of cold gel-filled compresses, and below you will find out the best uses and benefits.
What are hot/cold gel packs and what are they for?
What are they?
Gel packs are bags filled with this material that have the ability to maintain temperature, either hot or cold, for extended periods of time, upwards of 20 to 30 minutes, or even longer depending on their size. These bags are available in various sizes and shapes, so that they can be easily adapted to any part of the body. They replace the classic frozen pea bags in a much more efficient way.
What are they for?
As they have the quality of being able to maintain the temperature for long periods of time, they are ideal for applying both cryotherapy and thermotherapy, which are very efficient natural methods for treating the symptoms and pains of various injuries and ailments. Therefore, it is recommended to have one or more of them at home as a precaution for any domestic accident or sports injury that may occur at any time.
What are their uses?
Here we show you when to use the gel hot and cold wrap for both heat and cold therapy:
Reduce inflammatory processes
Release tension in muscles and joints
Improve blood circulation
Warming up for physical activity
Decreases pain transmission
Warms muscles prior to massage
Reduces cramping pains
Types of gel ice packs for freezing and microwaving
Reusable: These compresses can be used as many times as you want, as the gel is inside a resistant bag that withstands hot or cold temperatures without deteriorating easily.
With compression strap: They have an elastic strap that allows them to be attached to the part of the body where we want to use them, so that they provide a more comfortable experience for the user and also benefit from the use of compression therapy.
Extra large for legs and back: These are large in size to cover larger leg muscles such as the hamstrings, quadriceps or large sections of the back. Due to their size, they are only recommended for cold use.
For joints: This type of cold pack has ergonomic designs that fit perfectly to the elbow, ankle and knee joints, and thanks to the elastic compression strap they hold perfectly to the area.
For neck and shoulders: Since both joints have special shapes and locations, there are anatomically designed gel packs for these delicate joints. Neck gel packs function like a neck brace, while shoulder gel packs can be shaped like a shoulder pad.
Children’s for children: These pouches are designed in fun, child-friendly shapes so that they not only serve a therapeutic function, but also entertain and amuse children while they are using them.
Health benefits of gel packs for pain relief
Bumps and bruises: Using cold therapy in these cases will be ideal both to relieve the immediate pain and to avoid the swelling that usually appears right after a blow.
Dark circles, blepharitis and eye bags: A slightly cold compress taken out of the fridge in the shape of an eye mask can be your best ally in combating all these ailments that affect your eyes.
Sprains and strains: in the first few minutes of these injuries it is essential to have a gel pack fresh from the freezer to combat both inflammation and immediate pain.
Dislocations: With this injury, some ligaments and muscles will almost certainly suffer damage that you can treat with cryotherapy therapy in the first few minutes to stop the swelling from progressing.
Muscle contractures: This and other muscle problems can be treated with a gel pack to relax the contracted muscle and reduce muscle cramps and contractures.
Reduce inflammation: No matter what injury you have, if it starts to swell, quickly resort to a cold gel pack that generates vasoconstriction to reduce the inflammatory process.
Lower fever: A simple way to reduce a fever is with cold gel packs, which help reduce body temperature if applied to the forehead, armpits or calves.
Headache: By applying low temperatures to the neck and forehead, the blood supply is reduced, which is beneficial for headaches, headaches and other types of headaches.
Plantar fasciitis: As it is an ailment caused by inflammation of the fascia, applying an ice pack of gel is ideal for relieving pain in the sole of the foot that appears when walking long distances or standing for long periods of time.
Fractures: Intense and acute pain caused by a bone fracture can be relieved with the use of these cold packs, they will also reduce swelling so that the muscle adjacent to the fracture is in better condition.
Sports injuries: Whether it’s a sprain, tendonitis or muscle tear, applying a cold gel pack will help relieve immediate discomfort and prevent excess blood pooling during an inflammatory process.
Postpartum and breastfeeding: Women go through a delicate period after childbirth as they will be in a lot of pain. In addition, breastfeeding is not easy in the first few days and can cause problems ranging from mastitis to sore nipples. For all this, applying cold will help to reduce the pain.
Postoperative: The first 48 hours after an operation are usually painful, especially around the incision made. Both cold compresses can be applied to minimise swelling and warm compresses can be applied to relax the patient and help them withstand the pain to come.
Haemorrhoids: When a vein in the rectum becomes inflamed, simply sitting down is painful, but can be relieved with the use of cold therapy using an anti-inflammatory cold gel pack.
Toothache: For this ailment, which is one of the most intense that we can suffer, especially in children when the first teeth are born, a cold gel compress is the best ally to control these symptoms.
How to use reusable hot and cold gel packs?
When to apply cold? Cold can be used on several occasions. The most obvious of these is to quell inflammatory processes and relieve pain caused by sports injuries, contusions and bruises, or other ailments such as migraines, headaches, blepharitis or toothache. It has also been found to be effective in reducing fever and has other beneficial effects such as releasing accumulated tension, stimulating the production of endorphins, oxygenating cells and improving the health and appearance of the skin.
How to use cold? The use of cold should be done with care, as there is a risk of causing skin burns if applied without protection. For this reason, the ice pack should never be placed in direct contact with the skin, but use a cloth to act as an insulator. Put your gel ice pack in the freezer for at least 1 to 2 hours. When you want to use it, take it out and let it cool down for 5-10 minutes before using it. To improve its effects, we recommend applying 3-4 times a day in sessions of 15-20 minutes each time.
When to apply heat? Thermotherapy is ideal for improving blood flow, as it has a vasodilator and calming effect, which makes it an excellent ally for any ailment caused by circulatory problems in the legs or arms. In addition to this, it also has a sedative and relaxing effect which is ideal for stimulating muscle relaxation and helping us to rest better.
How to use heat? The application of heat should be controlled, always making sure that the heat compress is not too hot, otherwise it can cause burns. Avoid direct contact with the dermis, and do not keep for more than 10 to 15 minutes. Put the heat pack in the microwave for just 15-30 seconds, take it out and move the gel with your hands so that the heat is evenly distributed throughout the product. Before using it on the painful area, check that the temperature is correct with your hands.
Hot & Cold therapy
When to apply heat and cold? Hot and cold therapy is ideal for treating traumatic injuries, especially in joints. This therapy consists of alternating cold and heat in the same session. It should be applied when you want to activate the autonomic nervous system, stimulate vasoconstriction and vasodilation, reduce inflammation and, above all, to reduce stiffness and joint pain in the first days after an injury.
How to use hot and cold? The first thing to take care of is the temperature. For heat, the temperature must be controlled so that it does not burn, especially if the patient suffers from conditions such as peripheral venous insufficiency. Similarly, cold can also cause burns, so never apply directly to the skin. Always start with the application of heat for 5 to 10 minutes, then use the cold for the same period of time, and make 2 or 3 more changes. This protocol can be repeated 3 to 4 times a day to enhance its effects. It is ideal if treating a chronic injury that has become recurrent.
Alternatives to hot and cold gel packs
Instant hot/cold packs: The most economical alternative is the disposable hot/cold packs that are single-use, as they are cheaper. They are ideal for treating one-off problems such as a slight bruise or minor trauma.
Gel ice pads: These can be reused many times, but they can only be cooled by putting ice in them and can only be used for cryotherapy sessions, as if they are heated, the gel could turn liquid and become useless for maintaining temperatures for long periods of time.
Instant heat packs: These gel packs can also be an effective alternative for thermotherapy, but like other cheaper options, they can only be used once and can only be used for heating.
Gel heating pad: This alternative is ideal for thermotherapy as they are reusable, but can only be used for heating and cannot be cooled, which makes them less versatile.
Electric blankets: These are ideal for keeping warm in winter and also for treating minor injuries to large muscles such as the legs, but they can only emit heat and only work with electricity.
Microwavable heating pads: Finally, there are the thermal pillows for heating in microwaves, which are easy to use and can be used several times, and also have aromatic flowers inside to enhance their benefits.
F.A.Q: Frequently Asked Questions
What material are the hot/cold gel packs filled with?
Gel ice packs can contain various materials in their gel composition, usually consisting of distilled water, monoethylene glycol, carbomer, sodium hydroxide, glycerine and sometimes pigments for colour. Some can also be just distilled water with one third alcohol but they are of poorer quality and less functional as they end up freezing and forming an unusable block of ice.
Are there any contraindications to the use of gel ice pads?
There are several risk factors that may make the use of this product unsuitable, these factors are:
Do not apply to an open or infected wound.
Do not apply to patients with vascular disorders, unless under medical supervision.
Do not apply if you suffer from circulatory or nervous disorders, unless under medical supervision.
Do not apply to sensitive or irritated skin.
What are the risks and hazards of using reusable gel ice packs?
Here are some of the safety precautions to keep in mind:
Can they burn your skin? Yes, so always use a cloth or insulating material as an intermediary between the skin and the gel pack, and do not use the product directly on the skin. This applies to both hot and cold compresses.
Can they be toxic? The reality is that there is no evidence that any of the materials used to make these bags are toxic, but we should avoid using one that is deteriorated, as there is a risk of breakage. Especially if it is used to apply heat, as the gel inside will leak out and touch the skin directly, which can cause a burn.
How to make your own homemade gel ice packs?
The steps to follow to make your own hot and cold gel pack at home are as follows:
Choose a sturdy, clear plastic bag, preferably with an airtight seal.
Pour 3 parts distilled water to 1 part alcohol into the bag and a little glycerine or edible gelatine.
Put the mixture in the freezer, it will never freeze completely and will maintain a gelatinous texture.
How to avoid dangers and contraindications?
The best way to avoid the risks and contraindications of hot/cold gel pads before use is to read the instructions for use provided by the manufacturer and, if you suffer from any special ailments, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Make sure the bag is in good condition and never stop using the insulator to protect your skin.
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The content of this website is educational in nature, no information is intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The information on this website is reviewed by healthcare professionals with the aim of providing reliable information for people with painful health problems.
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