The mere mention of ice massage is enough to set most people’s teeth on edge, but for people suffering from back or neck pain it can be a simple and effective solution. The supplies you need are free and available from your sink and freezer, and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. Most importantly, the relief that it provides — especially for muscle train — is real, and it’s fast.
As low-tech as ice massage may seem, there is real science behind it. The ice acts as a drag to inflammation, slowing down that painful process, and reducing swelling at the same time. When inflammation goes away, so does discomfort and swelling in the tissues, and the pressure on nerves is reduced.
Once nerves are no longer under pressure they stop going into spasm. Perhaps most importantly, the sooner inflammation goes away, the sooner healing can begin. And if the application of ice is done in combination with massage, it provides movement within the tissues, which also speeds healing.
Ice massage is particularly helpful in response to an injury, and one of the secrets to effective ice massage is for the therapy to be begun as quickly as possible after the injury happens. Waiting to see if things get better makes little sense, as there is no reason not to start as soon as you begin to feel pain.
The therapy works best if it begins less than 48 hours after the onset of pain. Application of ice will immediately contract the tissues and the veins, and then once it is removed and the veins dilate, blood rushes into the area and floods it with nutrients. This is how ice massage speeds healing.
Performing ice massage therapy can be as easy as grabbing an ice cube out of the freezer, but a bigger piece of ice will be more effective, and it’s a good idea to put a paper cup filled with water in your freezer and keep it there in case you ever need it. As soon as you injure yourself, just peel away about half an inch of paper from the top to expose the ice – the bottom of the cup will serve as a convenient holder and protection from cold for your hand.
Ice massage can be self-applied, but it’s certainly easier if you have someone around to do it for you. If help is available, just lay on your stomach with a pillow under your hips and let them apply the treatment. If you’re by yourself, it’s best accomplished by lying on your side and reaching around with your top arm.
One way or another, the best technique involves rubbing the ice on the painful area using light pressure. Use a circular motion and limit the radius of the circle to approximately six inches from the center of the pain. Stay away from any bony areas, and to avoid ice burn don’t spend more than five minutes on the therapy. Repeat a few times a day.
The goal of ice massage is to numb the area while at the same time resting it. Just because the pain goes away doesn’t mean that you should start jumping around. Movement is important, but nothing that will re-stress the area. After 48 hours you can convert your pain relief to the application of a heating pad.
If you use this technique and it doesn’t provide relief, it may be time to seek professional help. Contact our office to set up a time for you to come in and speak to our lumbar spine professional.