How to Make a Reusable Ice Pack

Ice on knee joint
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After an acute injury, applying ice can help control the inflammation, pain, and swelling that may result. 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. The good news is that you can make a reusable ice pack at home.

First Aid for Injuries

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 an appropriate range of motion and strength while things are healing.)

Make a Reusable Ice Pack

There is a way to prevent your homemade 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.

What You Need

  • One resealable plastic bag (a one-gallon freezer bag works well)
  • Several ice cubes
  • Two to three tablespoons of rubbing alcohol

What to Do

  1. Place the ice cubes into the plastic bag.
  2. Pour rubbing alcohol into the bag.
  3. Seal the bag and apply it to your injured body part. Use a towel around the bag to prevent your body from getting too cold.

The rubbing alcohol prevents the ice cubes from sticking together and freezing 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.

Benefits of Ice After Injury

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. This swelling limits mobility and motion around your joints, tendons, or muscles. And that limited motion during the acute phase of healing may make moving around difficult once things are fully healed.

Applying ice to an injured 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 the 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.

A Word From Verywell

After an injury, it is a good idea to check in with your doctor to be sure you get the proper treatment. If you have suffered an injury or have had surgery, your doctor may recommend that you use ice to control 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.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Järvinen TA, Järvinen TL, Kääriäinen M, et al. Muscle injuries: Optimising recovery. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2007;21(2):317-31. doi:10.1016/j.berh.2006.12.004

  2. Bleakley CM, Glasgow P, Macauley DC. PRICE needs updating, should we call the POLICE?. Br J Sports Med. 2012;46(4):220-1. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090297

  3. Selkow NM, Herman DC, Liu Z, Hertel J, Hart JM, Saliba SA. Blood flow after exercise-induced muscle damage. J Athl Train. 2015;50(4):400-6. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.6.01

  4. Van den Bekerom MP, Struijs PA, Blankevoort L, Welling L, van Dijk CN, Kerkhoffs GM. What is the evidence for rest, ice, compression, and elevation therapy in the treatment of ankle sprains in adults?. J Athl Train. 2012;47(4):435-43. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-47.4.14

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 15 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.