Frozen: Ice Pack Princess | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Frozen: Ice Pack Princess

ice pack supplyLittle blue ice pack friends

Roo still sleeps with stuffed animals – actually today there’s a more dignified word for them: plush toys. Since the plush characters are soft, he doesn’t mind that they take up most of his bed. With an ice pack, it’s a different story: more like the fairy tale Frozen.

Ice packs are my companions day and night. I clutch them far more than Roo his plush! I hug them with my hands, against my elbows, knees, shoulders, ankles, and jaw! I lay them along my spine and press down into them. I rest my feet on them to relieve the big swollen lumps under the base of my toes.

They are my best friends – delivering frozen goodness that reduces inflammation and pain right before my eyes. But it wasn’t always so.

“The cold never bothered me anyway”

mini fridge for ice packs

Like Princess Elsa, there was a reluctant journey to come to accept the role of cold in my life. I’ve had thyroid disease most of my life so my skin is often cold to the touch; fans and air conditioning can set me to shivering – complete with uncontrollable teeth chattering. So I’ve always hated ice packs.

Grudgingly, I would admit how much ice helps. But now with lower prednisone (another story I’ll tell you soon), ice packs are absolutely essential. I have a mini fridge near my bed with a separate freezer compartment filled with ice packs!

Freeze warning

I’m more careful now, but I need to pass on a warning to any other Frozen princesses (and princes) who read this: direct contact with ice packs can burn the skin. Be careful. I learned the hard way:

shoulder burns from ice packLast summer the joints on my thoracic spine were so inflamed it not only hurt to breathe (the usual) but I also had a hard time sitting up at all. In the mornings, I’d lie directly on the ice packs until the inflammation went down enough that I could move. One day helping me change clothes, KB saw peeling skin and scabs on my back. It took me a while to realize it was from the ice.

Then last month my shoulder froze up the way it has for 30 years (before I was diagnosed with RD, I had shoulder “flares.”) The shoulder pain is so bad that Lortab doesn’t help, and there was no time to try to get a doctor’s appointment for an injection, so I reached straight for the ice packs. After about 36 hours of ice packs, my shoulder went back down to it’s usual awful (pain level less than 7). I was delighted it was like a shot with no shot. (But the skin was bruised.)

To avoid ice burns: place a cloth between the ice pack and the skin until the ice pack is partially melted and just “cool.” Or move the ice pack frequently to different locations.

How friendly has ice been to your joints?
frosted over ice pack

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Kelly O'Neill

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked about 12 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over fourteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/

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21 thoughts on “Frozen: Ice Pack Princess

  • November 9, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I use so many various sizes of ice packs it is crazy! My freezer is full. I get the really big ones, the medium ones, the small ones and the tiny ones. So many different kinds available at the different drugstores. I like the ones with a cloth like covering.
    I always start with a paper towel between the pad and my skin, then as it gets less frozen I can put the thing directly on my skin.
    It really does help with pain and swelling.
    They doctor recommended I use ice 3 X a day for three days after my cortisone injection last Wednesday. I still use it once a day now…5 days later. It did help the pain and swelling in the MCPS of my middle and pointer fingers. Did not stop the drift of the fingers from their normal position. DARN!
    So..all in all…ICE is our friend for all with RA.

    • November 9, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Penny can you think of anything in specific that might impact the mcp drift? I’ve tried hard to “protect” those joints & not use hands in motions that promote drift – but I wonder if it is inevitable once those joints remain inflamed (last joints to be much affected by me).

      • November 9, 2015 at 7:23 pm

        Kelly, I am starting hand therapy. I’ve studied up on the silver ting splints (Google them) and if they are appropriate for me, will plan on paying the difference between what my scanty insurance pays and the rest of the cost for the “special” ones (with bling on them). Reports suggest they will keep fingers from drifting as much. There are also special exercises that help some. As I learn them, I’ll pass them along to you.

        May the Lord God bless you every day!

        • November 9, 2015 at 7:24 pm

          Oops! Silver RING splints!

        • November 9, 2015 at 7:58 pm

          COOL. I talked to the creators of the ring spmints before and I am a believer in them. If you get them, you could write a blog post about it and I’d be glad to publish it here as a guest post instead of on your own blog if you’d like – promoting your blog of course..

          • November 18, 2015 at 12:27 pm

            I’ve seen homemade ring splints made with strong wire and a pliers… 100x cheaper, and infinitely adjustable. There are examples online.

    • November 21, 2015 at 11:32 am

      I’ve found a reusable cold compress (large) at Walmart (appx $11.00) that you can put in the freezer works great. It doesn’t get rock hard so you can form it over body parts, and it has a cloth-like cover. Once frozen and you use it, you can put in back into the freezer and it only takes about one-half hour for it to re-freeze. I hope this might be helpful to you and others.

  • November 9, 2015 at 11:26 am

    ice, glorious ice.
    to protect myself from freezer burn. i keep all the smaller ice packs sheathed in mismatched gym socks. i only take those socks ff the ice packs if they need washing.
    the cotton absorbs all moisture as the ice pack sweats. the sock might tear if it freezes around the wire shelf and i tug to hard BUT the ice back itself never nicks or tears in the freezers.
    i wrap larger packs in kitchen towels . i see no reason to ever put the pack directly on the skin–even when softened. what if there is a small crack r tear in the pack? i don’t want that stuff on my skin, regular clothes or bedding.
    i appreciated the concept of the cloths sold with some of the ice packs but my hands does not like the touch of it.
    i also have quite the collection of ace wraps to hld the ice packs in place that why as ashift i do not have to keep resetting everything.
    this year the bottoms of my feet have joined the pain song. acewrapping then was a bad plan. a trot to the bathroom or a … whatever became a mental debate. i hold the pack in place with stretched out hospital socks.

    good to hear from you kelly. and sad. sounds as if no relief for your RD has been found.

    • November 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

      No the RD marches on. But I hear from people who eventually find relief so I don’t give up hope. Thanks for the good tips. It’s amazing how much it helps the bottom of feet pain so I can walk.

  • November 9, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Ice is wonderful in the summer, but for me living in a colder climate, much of the year I just can’t take the cold packs when the weather outside is too cool or cold.

    I use bed buddy microwave heating packs, kind of like a beanbag sewn into a tube sock, they give off a nice moist heat but can also be frozen. I layer them in old socks for extra insulation. Some days I go to bed with three or four of them!

    Another other favorite thing, more more daytime use, are the stick on disposable self-heating pads. It’s constant gentle heat over 12 hours, and they are thin and invisible under clothes and have been a godsend when traveling. And they have never set off a TSA screening.

    Lastly, my go to when I have time is a warn tub loaded with Epsom salts. HEAVEN!

    I have had some success reducing acute inflammation with switching from cold packs to warm packs and then back, about every 15 minutes for an hour or two. It seems strange, but it does work.

    Glad you are back Kelly!


    • November 9, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      Thanks for the good tips Marge! I do love the disposable heat packs too. Always use them when traveling and when the room is cool to stop shivering (even a couple times while giving a speech).

  • November 9, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Well, I could have written this article myself. I use to purchase ice packs from my chiropractor and they were expensive. So one day I just looked up the maker on line and bought an entire case of them. Much better cost, by the way.
    I use an ice pack everyday, multiple times of day. Its a god sent when it comes to helping with the pain.

    • November 9, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      that’s what we did, too Nadine. Great for headaches or neck pain for all of us, too.

  • November 9, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    My wife made me some small, medium and large size velvet or cloth bags filled with Linseeds , these can be used for either hot or cold packs , you can heat them up in the micro wave or pop them in the freezer which ever you desire.
    If you where real creative you could make them in the shape of what body part you wanted ( hand, foot ) basically like a double layer glove or sock and fill that with Linseeds, this has been reliving the pain and swelling I have.

    Thanks for all the other suggestions.

  • November 18, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I recently read that cryotherapy is supposed to be helpful for RA – the kind where you actually put your whole body into one of those cryo-tubes and freeze for a little while. I’m thinking about trying that this winter minus the tube – just hang out outside in a t shirt and shorts and see if it works!

  • December 1, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    For me, cold PACKS work well, but cryotherapy did not. I put cold water in the tub and added a couple quarts of ice. I got in for only 10 minutes. YIKES! All my joints were swollen twice size and were horribly red and painful! For me, heat at a gentle level for brief periods works better.

  • December 29, 2015 at 12:13 am

    I feel so grateful and blessed to have come across this site. I have been diagnosed for 2 years now and the ice! I wouldn’t and still would not be able to make it thru some days without ice!!! Especially on my spine lately.

  • March 15, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Side note, i stopped using prednisone after ten years (per my ctor),taking raspberry ketones (otc) daily as i reduced & finally stopped prednisone.

  • September 30, 2017 at 12:01 am

    To all I recently did a training class the night before I put a list of all meds in my wallet it was used by Mets to help me. If this is done put it directly behind your drivers license


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