How to Make a Reusable Ice Pack

Photo of a woman with ice on her knee.
Know when to stop using ice by listening to your symptoms. PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier/Getty Images

After an acute injury, it is recommended you apply ice to help control the inflammation, pain, and swelling that may result. Many injuries like sprains and strains require ice during the acute phase of injury. The R.I.C.E. principle is a good rule to follow when you first injure yourself--rest, ice, compression and elevation can help control the inflammation to minimize the overall impact of your injury.

Many physical therapists are also turning to the P.O.L.I.C.E. principle for acute injuries. That acronym stands for protection, optimal loading, ice, compression and elevation. (The "optimal loading" helps maintain appropriate range of motion and strength while things are healing.)

The problem with homemade ice packs is that when you use them, the ice melts and then turns into a big block of ice when you put the ice bag back in the freezer. This makes it difficult to use it again because the ice pack won't form to your body part that needs it.

So how do you make a reusable ice back to ice all of your acute injuries?

Make a Reusable Ice Pack for Injury Icing

There is a way to prevent the ice pack from turning into a frozen block so you can use it again and again. Just follow this simple recipe and you'll be able to use your homemade ice bag whenever you are injured.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 3 Minutes

What You Need:

  • One plastic bag.
  • Several ice cubes.
  • Two to three tablespoons of rubbing alcohol.

Here's How:

  1. Place several ice cubes into a large plastic bag. A one-gallon freezer bag works well.

  2. Place two to three tablespoons of rubbing alcohol into the bag. Then seal the bag and apply it to your injured body part. Be sure to use a towel around the bag to prevent your body from getting too cold.

  1. When you put the bag into the freezer, the alcohol prevents the ice from turning into a giant block. That way, you can use the ice pack over and over.

The rubbing alcohol placed in the bag prevents the ice from freezing fully into a big chunk. That way, you can use it again and again, and it will form around the convoluted anatomy of your injured body part during future uses.

The Benefits of Ice Application after Injury

Remember, after any injury it is a good idea to check in with your doctor to be sure you get the proper treatment.

After suffering an injury like a sprain or a strain, your body will send a lot of blood and fluid to the injured area to clean it up and prepare it for healing. During this time, the swelling limits mobility and motion around your joints, tendons, or muscles. This limited motion during the acute phase of healing may make moving around difficult once things are fully healed.

Applying ice to an inured body causes vasoconstriction, or a closing down of blood vessels.

This limits the amount of swelling around an injured body part, and helps to preserve motion in the later stages of tissue repair. Application of ice can also help to decrease pain that you are feeling after your acute injury. Having an ice pack on hand to apply regularly--every 30 to 45 minutes after injury--can help improve your body's inflammatory response. A reusable ice bag makes this possible.

If you have suffered an injury or have had surgery, you need to use ice to control the inflammation. Plastic bags filled with ice cubes can help temporarily. But to have a long lasting, reusable ice pack, follow the recipe above and use your ice bag again and again.

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