It's quick, it's free, it's easy, and it can provide significant relief for many types of back pain. An ice massage is definitely a good way to treat your sore back or neck.
Most episodes of back pain are caused by muscle strain. Common causes of muscle strain of the large back muscles include:
- A sudden movement
- An awkward fall
- Lifting a heavy object (using your back muscles)
- A sports injury
- 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.
- Helps to relieve the pain by numbing sore tissues (like a local anesthetic)
- Slows the nerve impulses in the area, which interrupts the pain-spasm reaction between the nerves
How ice helps
How to do it
You can use a regular ice cube, but it's better to use a larger piece of ice. One easy way to do this is to freeze water in a paper or styrofoam cup, then peel the top inch or two of the cup to expose the ice surface.
To have someone else give you the ice massage, lie on your stomach in a comfortable position with a pillow under your hips to keep stress of the back. You can also massage yourself by lying on your side.
Gently apply the ice cup to your back as follows:
- Apply the ice gently and massage in a circular motion
- Focus on the six-inch area of your back where you feel the pain
- Avoid applying the ice directly on the bony portion of your spine
- Limit the massage to about 5 minutes at a time (to avoid an ice burn)
If you prefer, you can also use a commercial ice pack, or a bag of ice wrapped in a towel, and place it on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes. Heat is good too
Ice is most helpful during the first 48 hours following an injury. After that, heat is probably more beneficial to the healing process, and heat can also be alternated with icing.
Physical therapists often recommend using ice for the first 48 hours after an injury (muscle strain), and then switch to heat. Moist heat, such as a warm bath or whirlpool, is thought to aid the healing process by increasing circulation and relaxing muscle spasms.