Why ice and compression are best for treating upper and lower body injuries

Post In: body injuries
Why ice and compression are best for treating upper and lower body injuries

Cold compression has always been the most reliable first aid treatment. Ice has a numbing quality, almost like an anaesthetic to give immediate relief to muscle pains. Today, cold compression has been made even better and accessible thanks to modern devices such as gel packs.

Speaking of gel packs, you may be wondering which specific Magic Gel product to get that covers just about any part of your body. In this article, we’ll talk about ice and compression treatment. We’ll also learn a thing or two about the science behind one of the most enduring first aid techniques.

What is cold compression therapy?

Cold compression therapy, otherwise called cryotherapy, joins the two middle components of the RICE method (rest, ice, compression elevation) to decrease pain and swelling resulting from a sports injury or usual wear and tear. Cold compression blends the principles of cryotherapy and static compression normally utilized for the treatment of pain and inflammation after intense injury or surgeries. It is usually recommended by orthopedic specialists following medical procedures and it is particularly helpful for sprains, strains, pulled muscles and damaged ligaments.

Cryotherapy is one of the most well-known treatments in orthopedic medicine. The primary reason for utilizing cryotherapy in intense injury management is to bring down the temperature of the injured tissue, which lessens the tissue’s metabolic rate and causes the tissue to endure the period following the injury. Several sources point out that the metabolic rate in a damaged tissue decreases when cold temperatures are applied to the affected area.

Static compression is frequently utilized along with cryotherapy in caring for intense wounds. Using compression on injured parts of our bodies increases external pressure on the tissue and prevents the formation of edema (swelling). Compression helps prevent further fluid loss from the vessels in the injured area, making it more difficult for fluids to accumulate. Ice with compression is much colder than ice alone due to improved skin contact and increased tissue density caused by extended static compression. Tissue reaches its lowest temperature faster and remains cold even after the treatment.

How to use a cold compress for injuries

Cold compress should be applied to the injury within the first 48 hours – the more immediate the treatment, the better. Cold compresses should be applied for 20 minutes at a time with at least 20 minute breaks in between. Continue icing the affected area for two or three days, if needed. If you don’t see improvement within 48 to 72 hours, consult with a doctor.

When applying cold compress to an injured area, we recommend for you to use the RICE method:


Avoid moving or using the injured area, and only do simple activities as your body allows.


Put a cold compress on the area as soon as possible. This will help reduce inflammation, bleeding and bruising right away.


Enhance the effect of ice therapy by wrapping a bandage around the affected area. Always keep an elastic bandage in your first-aid kit for this.


Keep the injury above your heart to decrease swelling. For example, if you injured your leg, rest your leg on top of a stack of pillows while laying down on the couch. You can do the same with an arm injury.

Many of the ice packs available use adjustable elastic straps to aid in compression over the injured areas. Most of these products also have guidelines which indicate how the bandage should be applied in order to achieve optimum compression required for an acute injury. Most ice packs have a built-in protective layer, so the ice is not applied directly to the skin, which can result in a burn to the area sometimes known as a “cryoburn”.

Aside from the RICE method, you can also take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or Tylenol, to help reduce pain and swelling. Taking NSAIDs while using cold compresses can help treat pain more effectively.

Because ice packs can freeze and maintain pliability, they are much more efficient in cold therapy treatment than ice cubes or instant cold packs. An additional advantage of the reusable gel packs is its versatility: they can be used for hot therapy, as well. The reusable gel packs can be heated in a bowl of water in a microwave and are best soothing muscles and joints aches and pains.

Got a question or anything I can help with?  My name is Steve Stretton. I’m the owner and manager at Gelpacks.com, and you can drop me a line here. Good luck!


Back to blog