For patients experiencing back pain, ice massage therapy is quick, free, easy to do, and it can provide significant pain relief for many types of back pain. In a world of sophisticated medical care, a simple ice massage can still be one of the more effective, proven methods to treat a sore back or neck, either when used alone or in combination with other treatments.
Most episodes of back pain are caused by muscle strain. The large paired muscles in the low back (erector spinae) help hold up the spine, and with an injury the muscles can become inflamed and spasm, causing low back pain and significant stiffness.
Common causes of muscle strain of the large back muscles include:
-A sudden movement
-An awkward fall
-Lifting a heavy object (using the back muscles)
-A sports injury
While it sounds like a simple injury, a muscle strain can create a surprising amount of pain. In fact, this type of injury is one of the most common reasons people go to the emergency room. However, not much can be done for a strained back muscle except for rest (e.g. for up to two days), pain relief medications, and to use ice and/or heat application. This article discusses how and to use ice massage therapy and heat therapy for quick relief of back pain caused by muscle strain.
How ice massage therapy provides pain relief
Ice massages can help provide relief for back pain in a number of ways, including:
#Ice application slows the inflammation and swelling that occurs after injury. Most back pain is accompanied by some type of inflammation, and addressing the inflammation helps reduce the pain
#Ice massage therapy numbs sore tissues (providing pain relief like a local anesthetic)
#Ice massage therapy slows the nerve impulses in the area, which interrupts the pain-spasm reaction between the nerves
#Ice massage therapy decreases tissue damage
#Ice massage therapy is most effective if it is applied as soon as possible after the injury occurs.
The cold makes the veins in the tissue contract, reducing circulation. Once the cold is removed, the veins overcompensate and dilate and blood rushes into the area. The blood brings with it the necessary nutrients to allow the injured back muscles, ligaments and tendons to heal.
As with all pain relief treatments, there are some cautions with applying ice and using ice massage therapy. Never apply ice directly to the skin. Instead, be sure that there is a protective barrier between the ice and skin, such as a towel. Limit the ice application to no more than fifteen or twenty minutes. Additionally, ice should also not be used for patients who have rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s Syndrome, cold allergic conditions, paralysis, or areas of impaired sensation.
By: Stephen H. Hochschuler, MD