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Category: Massage Therapy

Ice Massage

To do ice massage therapy, a regular ice cube may be used, 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.

Someone else can give the ice massage, with the patient lying on his or her stomach in a comfortable position. Placing a pillow or towel under the hips will help keep stress off the low back. Patients can also give themselves ice massages by lying on their side and reaching around to apply ice to the low back.

5 Steps of Ice Massage Therapy

For optimal results, ice massage therapy should be gently applied to the lower back as follows:

  1. Apply the ice gently and massage in a circular motion
  2. Focus the ice massage therapy on the six-inch area of the back where the pain is felt
  3. Avoid applying the ice massage directly on the bony portion of the spine (the bones that protrude along the spinal column)
  4. Limit the ice massage therapy to about 5 minutes at a time (to avoid an ice burn)
  5. Repeat the ice massage two to five times a day.

In general, one should never apply ice directly to the skin to avoid burning the skin. However, with ice massage therapy it is acceptable to apply the ice to the skin because the ice doesn’t stay in one place for long.

The key to ice massage therapy is to achieve numbness in the area of injury without burning the skin. Once this ‘numbness’ has been achieved, gentle, minimal stress movements can be made. When the numbness has worn off, the ice massage can be applied again for another cycle.

Ice massage and ice application is generally most helpful during the first 48 hours following an injury that strains the back muscles. After this initial period, heat therapy is probably more beneficial to the healing process. For some people, alternating heat therapy with cold application/icing provides the most pain relief.

Ice Massage Precautions

To avoid getting an ice burn, there are several precautions to take with ice therapy:

  • When applying ice directly to the skin on the back, be sure to keep the ice moving in a slow, circular motion to avoid staying in one place too long.
  • Limit the ice massage to no more than five minutes at a time.
  • Be sure not to fall asleep with the ice resting on the skin.
  • Ice application of any kind should be avoided by patients with certain medical conditions, such as for patients who have rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s Syndrome, cold allergic conditions, paralysis, or areas of impaired sensation.

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.

Stretching

Stretching may take a back seat to your exercise routine. You may think that stretching your hamstrings and calves is just something to be done if you have a few extra minutes before or after pounding out some miles on the treadmill. The main concern is exercising, not stretching, right?Not so fast. Although studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed, stretching may help you improve your joint range of motion, which in turn may help improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Understand why stretching can help and how to stretch correctly.Stretching can help improve flexibility, and, consequently, range of motion in your joints. Better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion and enabling your muscles to work most effectively.

Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle. And you may come to enjoy the ritual of stretching before or after hitting the trail, ballet floor or soccer field.

Stretching essentials

Before you plunge into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. While you can stretch anytime, anywhere — in your home, at work, in a hotel room or at the park — you want to be sure to use proper technique. Stretching incorrectly can actually do more harm than good.

Use these tips to keep stretching safe:

  • Don’t consider stretching a warm-up. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. So before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Or better yet, stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up.Also, consider holding off on stretching before an intense activity, such as sprinting or track and field activities. Some research suggests that pre-event stretching before these types of events may actually decrease performance.Strive for symmetry. Everyone’s genetics for flexibility are a bit different, so rather than striving for that gymnast or ballet dancer degree of motion, focus on having equal flexibility side to side (especially if you have a history of a previous injury).
  • Focus on major muscle groups. When you’re stretching, focus on major muscle groups such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders.Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. Make sure that you stretch both sides. For instance, if you stretch your left hamstring, be sure to stretch your right hamstring, too.
  • Don’t bounce. Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing. Bouncing as you stretch can cause injury to your muscle.
  • Hold your stretch. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds. Breathe normally as you stretch.
  • Don’t aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
  • Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity. If you play soccer, for instance, you’re more vulnerable to hamstring strains. So opt for stretches that help your hamstrings.
  • Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming. But you can achieve the most benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week.If you don’t stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits that stretching offered. For instance, if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, and you stop stretching, your range of motion may decrease again.
  • Bring movement into your stretching. Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific movements. The gentle movements of tai chi or yoga, for instance, may be a good way to stretch.And if you’re going to perform a specific activity, such as a kick in martial arts or kicking a soccer ball, do the move slowly and at low intensity at first to get your muscles used to it. Then speed up gradually as your muscles become accustomed to the motion.

“Do I have to stretch?” is a very common question, especially when discussing exercise. It’s a good idea, says the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM recommends stretching each of the major muscle groups at least two times a week for 60 seconds per stretch. Staying flexible as you age is a priority to help keep your mobility high as discussed in this weeks previous blogs.

If you have problems with posture or activities, make it a habit to stretch those muscles regularly. If you have back pain from sitting at a desk all day, stretches that reverse that posture can help.

Simple Back Stretchstretching2

Exercise physiologist Mike Bracko recommends doing the “Standing Cat-Camel” as a work-related back stretch. Here’s how:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent slightly
  • Lean forward, placing your hands just above your knees.
  • Round your back so that your chest is closed and your shoulders are curved forward.
  • Then arch your back so that your chest opens and your shoulders roll back.
  • Repeat several times.

If your job keeps you in the same position all day, Bracko suggests doing 2-minute stretch breaks to reverse that posture at least every hour.