What’s the first thing you do after you hit your head on the kitchen cupboard or sprain your ankle? Ice the spot as soon as possible and wait for the inflammation to go away. Ice has many hidden talents and one of them is to relieve back pain. There are so many sophisticated therapies for the treatment and management of back pain, but ice still remains one of the most efficient means of therapy out there.
How Does Ice Massage Work?
It’s simple, really! Firstly, ice will delay the swelling that occurs after trauma. Almost all back pain has some type of inflammation associated with it, so treating the inflammation will help reduce the pain. Secondly, ice will numb the sore tissue, by acting as a local anesthetic. Lastly, the benefits of ice added to those of massage will only make the therapy even more successful.
Muscle strain is the most common cause of lower back pain. A sudden movement, a fall or lifting a heavy object could cause instant pain and agony. Although, medically, your back is fine and it only needs to gentle manipulation and rest, the pain can be debilitating. Instead of reaching for the pain killer bottle, ice massage therapy can relieve back pain caused by strains.
The cold makes the tissues contract and this reduces circulation. Once the ice is removed and the tissue begins heating up, the veins will try to overcompensate and dilate which will cause the blood to rush to the needed area. This rush of blood to the damaged tissue is getting nutrients to the muscles and to other tissues that need healing.
What Types of Ice Packs Should You Use?
Common cold packs include:
- Homemade Ice Pack
A homemade ice pack can be anything from a frozen towel, to a wet sponge put in the freezer. Frozen bags of peas will also work if there is no time to make others more efficient packs. To improvise a gel-type ice pack, fill a small bag with liquid dishwasher detergent and freeze it.
- Reusable Cold/Ice Pack
A reusable cold/ice pack can be found in any drugstore or general store. Keep them in the freezer to use whenever you need them and refreeze them after each use.
- Instant Ice Packs
Instant ice packs are the most convenient ways of getting cold delivered to the needed area. The chemical reaction that happens when the pack is cracked makes them ready to use at any time. Unfortunately, they can only be used once, so make sure you stock up on them.
Precautions of Ice Massage
Ice may be effective in treating back pain, but it’s not pleasant to work with. If not careful, ice can cause some discomfort and even damage, so here are some tips on how to work with ice in massage:
- Do not massage a patient with ice for more than 20 minutes.
- Make sure you never apply the ice directly on the skin; put some protective barrier, such as a towel.
- Ice massages are not suited for patients with medical conditions such as Raynaud’s Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, paralysis or allergies to cold.
Keep in mind that ice application works best when applied in the first two days following muscle injury. After the two days, heat therapy is much more beneficial and helps the healing process better.