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Using Ice and Cold Packs

Table of Contents


Topic Overview

Ice and cold packs can relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation from injuries and other conditions, such as arthritis.

Types of ice and cold packs

Using an ice or cold pack

Apply an ice or cold pack to the injured or sore area at least 3 times a day for as long as you have pain, swelling, and inflammation. For the first 72 hours, ice for 10 minutes, once an hour. After that, use ice for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 times a day: in the morning, in the late afternoon after work or school, and about one-half hour before bedtime. Also, ice after any prolonged activity or vigorous exercise.

Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack, and press firmly against all the curves of the affected area. Do not apply ice for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and do not fall asleep with the ice on your skin.

Commercial cold packs are too heavy and bulky for use on or around the eye. Be careful around the eye to prevent a chemical burn to the eye if a pack leaks.


Credits for Using Ice and Cold Packs

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Joan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy


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