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Ice Massage for Pain Relief

By Debra Rodzinak

Ice is known for its pain relief properties.  I like to use ice when I “overdo it” after a hard workout.  It works very well to decrease pain and inflammation.  When combining ice and massage, it is a win-win situation—the best of both worlds.

When massaging with ice, you can use a regular ice cube, but it is always better to use a piece of ice that you can firmly grip and manipulate.  One way to achieve this is to freeze a Styrofoam cup of water, then cut the top couple of inches exposing the ice and leaving a handy griping surface.  Depending on the area to be massaged, you can massage yourself or have someone else do it.

Ice Massage Steps

For the best results, do the following:

  • Rub the ice lightly and massage in a circular action
  • Focus the ice directly on the area where the most pain is felt
  • Only massage with ice five minutes at a time to avoid burning the skin
  • Repeat up to five times per day

Ice Massage Notes

In general, ice should never be applied directly to the skin due to nasty ice burns.  However, when massaging with ice, it is perfectly fine to let the ice touch the skin because the surface of the skin does not come into contact with the ice for too long.

The overall goal of ice massage therapy is to numb the injured area without burning the skin.  After the injured area has been sufficiently numbed, the area should be moved gently. When the numbness has vanished, reapply the ice and repeat.

Ice massage is most beneficial during the first 48 hours after injury.  For many people, alternating heat and ice tends to bring the most pain relief.

Precautions When Using Ice Massage

An ice burn is no fun and there are several precautions you should take to ensure your skin remains healthy:

  • Keep moving the ice around on the skin in a slow, circular motion and don’t stay on one place too long.
  • Do not massage with ice for more than five minutes at a time.
  • Although relaxing, do not fall asleep with the ice on top of the skin.
  • If an area is numb before ice is applied, maybe due to a pinched or entrapped nerve, do not use ice.
  • Patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, cold allergic conditions, or Raynaud’s syndrome should not use ice therapy. One does not have to include massage with the ice to benefit – simple application or an ice pack or cold pack to the painful area is also an effective pain reliever.

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