Hydrocollator packs are therapeutic pads which can be made hot or cold and are used to treat injuries. The packs provide moist heat which can loosen tight muscles and stiff joints without pulling moisture from the skin, as electric heating pads can do. When purchasing a hydrocollator pack you should consider the type of filling, which size pack is best for your use, if the hydrocollator pack comes with a washable cover or if one can be purchased along with the pack, and if the hydrocollator pack can be heated using the method you prefer.
These packs can be filled with man-made substances such as silica, moisture-absorbing beads, or gels, or with organic substances such as corn or rice. Man-made substances can be heated in a pot of boiling water, in the microwave, or in a hydrocollator unit, a special box designed just to heat hydrocollator packs and typically found only in spas or hospitals. Organic fillings are usually only heated in a microwave. To achieve moist heat, the synthetically filled packs are either soaked in hot water or absorb water from the air after heating, while packs filled with organic material always absorb water from the air after heating. All types of hydrocollator packs can be cooled in the refrigerator or freezer for cold, therapy treatments.
Hydrocollator packs with synthetic fillings typically come in different sizes for use on hands, the spine, knees, shoulders, or neck. The variety of sizes allows the pack to be tailored to the part of the body which is injured. The pack should be able to generously wrap or encompass the area that is injured. Hydrocollator packs with organic filling usually come in limited sizes and are typically shaped to be used on a specific body part. Washable covers come with most hydrocollator packs or can be purchased along with the packs. Most hydrocollator pack instructions state that, even if the pack has a cover, it should be wrapped in a towel before applying it to the skin, so you will need to decide if you want to purchase the pack cover or just use a towel to cover the pack.
A good way to look at the many hydrocollator pack options is to visit a medical supply store. Most medical supply stores will have a few different sizes and filling types to choose from so you can determine the best size and feel the consistency of the pack fillings. Each pack should come with some warranty against manufacturer defects such as weak seams.