Whether you’re recovering from a sports injury, healing from knee surgery, or suffering from a chronic condition like arthritis, cold therapy is one of the best ways to reduce pain, decrease inflammation, and ease stiff muscles.
In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of using ice packs for knee injuries, and discuss which features you should be looking out for in a good pack.
We’ll then review 10 of the best ice packs for your knees and then choose our top recommended pick.
Why Use an Ice Pack on your Knees?
If you’ve ever injured your knee, you’ve probably heard of the RICE method of treatment for soft tissue injuries.
RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
While more research is needed in order to confirm the effectiveness of RICE in helping heal muscle and other soft-tissue injuries, this treatment method is thought to help reduce inflammation, ease muscle stiffness, and relieve the pain associated with knee strains, sprains, ligament tears, and other common knee injuries .
Ice packs for the knee satisfy at least one component of the RICE method of recovery: ice.
They come in a wide variety of styles, however, many of which also provide another essential component of the RICE treatment method: compression.
In the following sections, we’ll look at the different types of ice packs that are available for the knee and what features to look for when purchasing a pack.
Types of Ice Therapy for the Knees
There are three basic types of ice packs for knees: ice bags, knee wraps, and knee sleeves.
This is the most basic type of ice pack.
It can either be filled with ice or water. Ice bags are inexpensive and versatile, but they may “sweat” as the ice inside melts.
A knee wrap provides 360-degree cooling therapy and usually features straps that can be adjusted for extra compression.
They are usually filled with either an ice or gel pack to keep them cool.
Ice Therapy Machines
An ice therapy machine provides a continuous flow of ice water into a compression wrap that is strapped on around your knee.
Related: Best ice therapy machines
What to Look for When Buying an Ice Pack
Ice packs come in a variety of styles, materials, and compression levels.
In this section, we’ll cover a few basic features that you should be looking for when choosing the best ice pack for your knees.
An ice pack that is not tight enough won’t provide the compression needed to reduce inflammation and pain.
On the other hand, a pack that’s too tight may injure your knee further.
Sizing varies by manufacturer, so it’s important to refer to the sizing chart to be sure you’re buying the right size pack for your leg.
Ice packs are made from many different materials, including fleece, neoprene, and polyester.
The right material for you will depend on personal preference, but you should choose an ice pack made from a soft, high-quality fabric that will insulate your skin from the cold.
The flexibility of an ice pack will determine its ideal use.
Some packs are flexible and allow for full range of motion, while others completely immobilize the knee and are intended to be used while stationary.
The most durable and effective ice packs are made from high-quality materials, and this is reflected in their price.
That said, there are some less expensive options that will do the job.
Avoid cheaply made ice packs made from materials that don’t properly insulate the skin.
The Best Ice Packs for Knees
Now that you’ve decided what features you need in a cold pack, it’s time to review the best ice packs that are currently available on the market.
We’ve based our selections on durability, price, versatility, and overall customer satisfaction.
1. Shock Doctor ICE Recovery Compression Knee Wrap
The Shock Doctor’s ICE Recovery Compression Wrap combines cold therapy with gentle compression to reduce swelling and aid in the recovery of strains, sprains, and tendonitis.
The ice wrap features adjustable Z-grip straps and comes with removable, reusable gel packs that can also be warmed up to provide heat therapy.
The ICE Recovery Compression Knee Wrap provides 360-degree cooling therapy, which helps reduce swelling quickly and makes the wrap ideal for use when recovering from post-workout soreness.
This ice wrap immobilizes the knee joint, however, so it may not be the best choice for those who want to be able to continue performing their daily activities while treating an injured knee.
Pros: Adjustable straps for customized compression and fit, gel pack can also be used for heat therapy, features multiple gel packs for 360-degree coverage
Cons: Not ideal for use when performing everyday tasks, ice packs tend to slide out of pockets
2. ActiveWrap Ice/Heat Therapy Wrap For Knee
Like the Shock Doctor’s ICE Recovery Compression Knee Wrap, the Ice/Heat Therapy Wrap completely immobilizes the knee joint, which helps promote faster healing but also limits mobility.
It also has reusable gel packs that can be frozen or heated to provide 360-degree cooling or heat therapy.
What makes this ice wrap different than its competitor is its patented DLP divider, which allows you to adjust the temperature of your cold therapy by 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Ice/Heat Therapy Wrap by ActiveWrap is ideal for athletes, joggers, cyclists, hikers, and anyone else who engages in high-impact activities. It is also ideal for use after knee surgery.
Pros: Won’t bunch up or slide down, provides 360-degree cooling therapy, aids in recovery from knee surgery, patented DLP divider for temperature control, gel pack and be heated or cooled
Cons: Immobilizes the knee joint
3. Flexikold Gel Ice Pack
What sets the FlexiKold Gel Ice Pack apart from other ice packs on our list is that it remains flexible, even when frozen.
This not only helps the pack conform more easily to the knee, but it also makes the pack suitable for use when performing just about any activity.
The ice pack is filled with a special gel that stays cold longer than traditional bentonite formula, but some customers have mentioned that the gel doesn’t get cold enough to provide effective pain relief.
Another frequent complaint is that the gel tends to shift around in the pack, which can make targeting an injury more difficult.
Pros: Available in a wide range of sizes, flexible even when frozen, leak-proof design
Cons: Gel tends to shift around unlike a traditional gel pack, may not be cold enough for some
4. übertherm Knee Pain Relief Cold Wrap
Over-icing the knee can trigger an injury response that makes inflammation worse and impedes healing.
Übertherm’s Knee Pain Relief Cold Wrap is specially designed to prevent over-icing made from conducting and insulating materials that help deliver a more consistent and sting-free cold therapy experience.
The ice wrap never cools below 1 degree Fahrenheit, thanks to a unique thermal composite pocket that holds the included ice packs snugly against your skin while ensuring optimal thermal transfer for up to 60 minutes.
The Knee Pain Relief Cold Wrap is ideal for use by athletes between activity or in addition to physical therapy.
Its flexible design allows enough joint movement for walking and performing other light activities.
Some customers have complained, however, that the cold packs are too rigid when frozen and make the wrap uncomfortable to wear.
Pros: Targeted, sting-free cold therapy, provides compression and stability, can be worn while performing everyday tasks
Cons: Only available in one size, ice packs not flexible enough
5. Ohuhu Hot Cold Reusable Ice Bag
The Hot Cold Ice Pack Reusable Ice Bag by Ohuhu is great for those who want immediate relief from pain and inflammation due to sports injuries, post-workout muscle tension, bruises, sprains and strains.
Simply fill the bag with crushed ice or ice cubes, then press the bag to the affected area.
One minor drawback of the Hot-Cold Ice Pack Reusable Ice Bag is that condensation tends to form on the outside of the bag, although this can easily be fixed by wrapping a towel around the bag.
Another concern is that despite having a “leak-proof” cap, some customers have reported that the bag tends to leak as the ice melts.
For its low price, though, the Hot-Cold Ice Pack is a great option for shorter cold therapy sessions.
Pros: Inexpensive, available in three sizes, can be filled with ice, pliable design conforms to the body
Cons: Condensation may form on outside of the bag, may leak
6. Knee Ice Pack Wrap by TheraPAQ
The TheraPAQ Knee Ice Pack is an excellent choice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts, as it allows full range of motion for sports and other high-intensity activities.
It is made from comfortable nylon and polyester, and features adjustable Velcro straps for adjusting the compression level.
One minor complaint that some customers have about this ice wrap is that the ice pack doesn’t fit properly into the sleeve when frozen separately.
The ice pack must be frozen inside of the wrap, which can be a hassle if you want to wear the sleeve for compression between icing sessions.
Overall, though, this ice wrap is a great choice for anyone who wants to benefit from cold therapy without stopping their daily activities.
Pros: Adjustable Velcro straps, flexible enough for use while performing daily activities, can be used for both cold and heat therapy
Cons: Ice pack doesn’t fit properly in a wrap if frozen separately, only available in one size
7. Polar Ice Large Cold Therapy Knee Wrap
With its lightweight construction, slim-fitting design, and adjustable Velcro closures, it’s easy to see why the Polar Ice Large Cold Therapy Knee Wrap is considered one of the most wearable wraps on the market.
It features water-filled ice packs that are encased in a soft, comfortable fleece material that not only conforms to the natural contours of the knee, but also insulates the skin to prevent stinging.
The ice pack has a waffled design to speed up the freezing time, but some customers have mentioned that the pack melts too quickly.
Another frequent complaint is that the sizing runs small, so you’ll want to be sure to refer to the manufacturer’s sizing guide before purchasing this ice wrap.
Pros: Slim-fitting design, water ice pack for faster freezing, 360-degree coverage, lined with soft fleece, universal design
Cons: Doesn’t stay cold long enough, sizing tends to run small
8. The Pain Soother Reusable Ice Pack for Knee
The Reusable Ice Pack by The Pain Soother is one of the few knee ice packs on the market that feature an air pump system for targeted compression and pain relief.
Recommended by orthopaedic surgeons, this ice pack is effective in managing pain from arthritis, sprains, sport injuries, and tendonitis.
In terms of price, the Reusable Ice Pack is relatively inexpensive – especially when you consider how durable it is.
Unlike some of the other wraps on our list, however, this ice pack does not provide 360-degree cold therapy.
Another minor annoyance is that the pack must be worn over clothing.
Pros: Comfortable, inexpensive, made from durable and high-quality materials, removable ball pump
Cons: Must be worn over clothing, does not provide full knee coverage
9. NatraCure Hot/Cold & Air Compression Knee Brace Support
Like many of the other knee ice packs on our list, The NatraCure Hot/Cold & Air Compression Knee Brace provides compression as well as cooling or heating therapy to promote faster recovery from sprains strains, ligament tears, tendinitis, and knee surgery.
Like The Pain Soother’s Reusable Ice Pack, the NatraCure Hot/Cold & Air Compression Knee Brace utilizes air pump system for more uniform compression.
This ice pack is great at delivering targeted pain relief, but we would have liked to see a wider range of sizes.
Currently, only one size is available that fits knees up to a circumference of 21 inches.
Pros: Inexpensive, filled with medical-grade ThermoActive gel, detachable air pump
Cons: Only available in one size
10. FreezeSleeve Cold Therapy Compression Sleeve
The Cold Therapy Compression Sleeve by FreezeSleeve is made from a unique material that allows the sleeve to be worn safely and comfortably against bare skin.
It is available in a wide range of sizes, from small to triple extra-large, and can be used on other parts of the body besides the knee – such as the elbow, ankle, or wrist.
We love the slim-fitting design of the FreezeSleeve, which allows the brace to be easily concealed under everyday clothing, but some customers have reported that the sleeve doesn’t stay cold long enough.
Pros: Available in a wide range of sizes, can be used on other parts of the body, easy to clean, allows for full mobility
Cons: Expensive, doesn’t stay cold long enough
The Best Ice Pack for Knees: Recommendations
In terms of durability, performance, and price, the Polar Ice Cold Therapy Knee Wrap provides the best value of all of the knee wraps we’ve reviewed in this post.
Its slim-fitting design makes the ice wrap comfortable enough to wear all day, while its flexible construction allows you to continue your daily activities.
If you don’t feel the need to have to strap the ice pack onto your knee and don’t mind having to use it while sitting, the FlexiKold Gel Pack is a great alternative.
The ice packs we’ve reviewed in this post encompass the wide range of products that are available to provide soothing cold therapy, whether you’re at home, at work, or on the go.