Heat and cold therapy are widely accepted forms of self-treatment for pains, sprains, and swellings. Some of us use them once in a while when we need them, while many of us use them frequently for treatment against long term pains and internal strains. We have hot cold gel packs, instant cold packs, heat therapy, cryotherapy and many more to help us get rid of such conditions. What started out as ice and steam water treatment hundreds of years ago has now evolved into more convenient forms of therapy that we use now. Today, we will be looking at major differences between three common forms of cold treatment: cold gel packs, instant cold packs, and ice packs.
Cold Gel Packs
Gel packs are not specific to just cold treatment; they can also be heated to be used as heat treatment, making them a two-way solution for almost any kind of body pain and muscle strain and sprains. Gel packs generally are reusable, so they can be used multiple times, as much as recommended by the manufacturer. Gels are encased by durable plastic casings that can bear both heat and cold, and the gel packs themselves are affixed inside therapy wraps. They are generally good for long term use by people who require frequent applications of therapy wraps, both in cold and hot variants.
A major disadvantage of cold gel packs is that they need to be prepped before they can be used. So, they are not really useful if there is an immediate emergency. Gel packs need to be put into a freezer so that they can be cooled, and it can take some time before they are ready. This also makes them highly unsuitable for portable usage or outdoor use in areas with no access to a freezer. Cold gel packs and regular gel packs, in general, are usually recommended for therapeutic use by doctors and healthcare professionals.
Instant Cold Packs
Instant cold packs are a recent invention and a game-changer at that. They have a special chemical mix, usually with two separate chambers with one containing water and another containing ammonium nitrate. Both these packs are separated via a thin divider. When the pack is broken, both these substances mix, creating a violent endothermic reaction that instantly turns the entire mixture very cold. The scope of the reaction is not truly visible outside the pack as it happens all too quickly. Instant cold packs are great for use when outdoors, and in emergency cases where instant treatment is required. These packs stay cold for at least 10+ minutes, so they are enough for a quick treatment.
A major disadvantage is that they are single-use. That means once they have served their purpose, they are practically useless and need to be disposed of. While instant ice packs are good for immediate use, they are also suitable only for occasional or emergency use. Anyone who needs to have cold therapy almost every day will find instant ice packs impractical due to their single-use aspect. Plus, there is only an instant cold pack, not an instant heat pack, so one cannot use those for heat treatments in any possible way.
Solid Ice Packs
Solid ice packs use the old school way of cold treatment by using regular ice, which is solidified water. They are conventional, don’t require a trip to the local chemist or pharmacy to buy, and are entirely homemade. One needs to simply freeze water into ice cubes, place some of those ice cubes in a pack or wrap in a cloth or bag and applied to the affected area where cold therapy is required. If you have a habit of frequently storing ice cubes in freezers, then they can also act as instant packs for home use in case of an emergency such as minor burns, muscle pains, and body pains.
A major disadvantage of the ice pack is that they are not tailored for specific body parts, meaning applying them can be quite uncomfortable, especially for long periods of time. Plus, ice melts away slowly over time, so you are bound to have a soaked mess of wrap or bag after all the ice has melted into water. There are specific bags that store melted water which can refreeze into ice later, but it all takes time to do so. Another major disadvantage is that ice packs require time to form, even more than the time required to cool a gel pack. Plus, they cannot be taken outdoors or use portably like instant ice packs or even gel packs.
In short, we can see that each of these three forms of cold treatment have their own set of disadvantages, but taking the ratio of advantages and disadvantages into consideration, it can be safely said that gel packs are the best possible option, especially for home use and indoor use.