You can find relief for minor injuries using heat and cold packs.

Sprains and strains feel better after cold is applied; muscle aches respond better to heat therapy. You can buy commercial products that will provide both kinds of relief.

You also can make your own.

For just a few dollars, you can create a supply of reusable hot and cold packs that work just as well as their commercial counterparts.

Here are two simple ways to make a hot pack.

If you need a hot pack in a hurry, simply pour rice into a clean sock and tie a knot in the open end. Place the rice-filled sock in the microwave and heat for one (1) to three (3) minutes depending on the power of your microwave. Heat just until the rice is hot. (Be careful not to overheat the rice; it can start a fire.) Take the rice-filled sock out of the microwave, wrap it in a towel to avoid burning the skin, and apply it to the injured area.

Hot PackTo make a permanent hot pack, fold a piece of fabric with right sides together. Stitch along three of the four sides to make a pocket. Fold the fabric right-side out. Fill the pocket half- to three-quarters full with rice, flax seed, buckwheat or oatmeal. Seal the remaining end by folding the raw edges 3/8 to 1/2 inch under and into the pocket. Pin the folded edges together and then stitch along the edge. Make sure you backstitch on both ends of the final edge to secure the seam. Heat the pad in the microwave for one (1) to three (3) minutes, cover with a towel to avoid burning the skin, and apply to your sore muscles.

You can also use this hot pack as a bed warmer for those cold Midwest winter nights. Heat your hot pack in the microwave and put it between the sheets at the bottom of the bed. It will warm your feet and have you feeling toasty in no time.

But, hot packs shouldn’t be used for every minor injury.  Sprains and strains respond best to a different type of RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

You can make your own cold packs using just a few common household supplies.

Zip-top freezer bags are ideal for this purpose. You can use gallon-size bags for cold packs that need to cover a large injured area or quart-size bags to treat smaller injuries. Each cold pack requires two bags to minimize the risk of leakage.

Label your cold packs clearly when you put them in the freezer so they’re not mistaken for food. You also can add blue food coloring to the ingredients below if you wish.

Salt-water cold pack. Mix two (2) tablespoons of salt with two (2) cups of water and pour into a freezer bag. Seal the bag shut. Slide this sealed bag, zip-side down, into a second bag of similar size and zip it shut. Freeze for at least one (1) hour. The salt will prevent the water from freezing solid.

Alcohol-based cold pack. Measure two (2) cups of water and one (1) cup of rubbing alcohol and pour into a zip-top freezer bag. Seal shut. Insert the sealed bag upside down in a like-sized bag and seal the second bag. Place in the freezer. The water will not freeze when the rubbing alcohol is added.

A sweet cold pack. Pour corn syrup into a zip-top bag until the bag is two-thirds full. Seal the bag and place it zip-side down into a second bag and seal. Freeze for an hour. The syrup’s sugar content prevents it from freezing solid.

Always use caution when applying a hot or a cold pack to bare skin. It’s best to protect the skin from direct cold or heat by wrapping the pack in a towel or a pillowcase before applying it to the injury. This will help prevent burned or frozen skin.

When using hot or cold therapy, it’s is important to remember the 20-minute rule. Ice or heat for 20-minutes, then let the body rest for 20 minutes before repeating.