As with many products, a reusable hot-cold pack's ease of use, its versatility and the quality of the materials generally determine its cost. If the pack features a covering that is adjustable and provides full movement and compression, for example, the reusable hot-cold pack’s cost will be at the high end of the spectrum even though the actual hot-cold gel or visco-elastic material might be the same as that of an inexpensive reusable hot-cold pack. To choose the best one, simply choose the one that will provide the best treatment for the price you are willing to pay.
Virtually all of these packs use some type of gel or visco-elastic material as the hot-cold medium. This gel usually is contained in plastic and then inserted into varying types of coverings. These coverings vary from simple cloth envelopes to very high-tech, adjustable and breathable coverings that allow full movement and often provide compression.
Hot and cold packs that use gels and visco-elastic materials can be cooled in a refrigerator or frozen in a freezer. It can be heated in a microwave, whether in water or without water, or it can be heated in water boiled on a stove top. There are several reusable hot-cold packs that use packs of small beads made of a thermal-retaining material, usually contained in cloth envelopes of various configurations based on the intended use. Bead material, although it can be chilled in a freezer, is generally intended for moist heat therapy rather than ice therapy, however. For practical purposes, if you need equally effective hot and cold therapy, reusable packs using gel or visco-elastic material represent an appropriate choice.
Gels and visco-elastic materials can be frozen and heated many times, the hot-cold media are contained in plastic envelopes that degrade with use, so you must exercise care in the handling of these packs. The usable life of these packs is determined more by care in handling than whether the hot-cold material is gel or visco-elastic. After an indeterminate number of uses, even the most expensive reusable hot-cold pack will require replacement. Most quality hot-cold packs allow you to replace the part containing the gel or other hot-cold medium without having to purchase the covering material.