For many years, ice therapy has been used to alleviate pain and reduce swelling, and many people have found it to be successful. More recently, investigations have been conducted to determine whether ice truly makes a difference in healing, with mixed findings. In general, when used responsibly, they are safe medicines that help individuals feel better and have some effect on pain levels, with few side effects.
How does ice reduce pain?
Ice has long been used to treat soft tissue injuries that cause swelling. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that administering cold packs to most injuries does not help with recovery. It may even imply that injuries take longer to detect. This is related to the fact that lowering the temperature at the site of an injury causes the body’s immune system to respond more slowly. The immune system’s response is what will repair the harm.
In one study, some persons who used ice thought it helped them manage pain, but this did not transfer into less usage of medicines. Many people find that using ice to treat discomfort in the short term is beneficial. When used in this manner, it is unlikely to have a significant detrimental impact in the long run.
Therapy for Back Pain
A typical ice cube can be used for ice massage therapy, but a larger piece of ice is preferred. One simple method is to freeze water in a paper or Styrofoam cup, then peel off the top inch or two of the cup to expose the ice surface.
Someone else can perform the ice massage while the patient is resting on his or her stomach in a comfortable posture. Placing a pillow or cloth under the hips will relieve stress on the low back. Patients can also give themselves ice massages by lying on their side and reaching around to apply ice to their lower back.
Steps of Ice Massage Therapy
For best effects, use ice massage therapy to the lower back in the following manner:
- Gently massage the ice into the skin in a circular motion.
- Concentrate the ice massage therapy on the six-inch area of the back that is causing pain.
- Avoid directly applying the ice massage to the bony section of the spine (the bones that protrude along the spinal column)
- Limit your ice massage therapy to no more than 5 minutes at a time (to avoid an ice burn)
- Two to five times per day, repeat the ice massage.
In general, never apply ice straight to the skin to avoid burning it. However, because ice does not stay in one place for long, it is allowed to apply it to the skin during ice massage therapy.
The goal of ice massage therapy is to create numbness in the injured area without burning the skin. After achieving this ‘numbness,’ mild, low-stress movements can be performed. When the numbness has subsided, the ice massage can be repeated for another round.