Stone Cold Massage
For patients experiencing back pain, ice massage therapy is quick, 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.
Cold decreases muscle spasms by making muscles less sensitive to being stretched, and, like heat, cold can be used to treat low-back pain. Research suggests that cold works better for individuals who have had back pain for more than 14 days, while heat may be more effective for those with more recent pain.
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.
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. See Frozen Out for Contraindications
Health20: Tap into the Healing Powers of Water to Fight Disease, Look Younger, and Feel Your Best
While there are many ways that icy cold may be added into a massage, ice, cooling gels, placement of cold gel packs or ice packs, one of the most accepted forms used in spas is the use of cold stones. These stones are usually made out of marble, as this stone holds the cold the best. After all, at room temperature marble is eleven degrees Fahrenheit cooler than other stones.
Cold marble stones are thought to increase circulation and remove stress. The marble stones are kept cold, in ice water. Cold stone therapy is said to constrict the blood vessels, stimulate the nervous system, detoxify the body, and heal injured or inflamed muscles.
Often hot and cold stones are used together to allow the body to receive increased oxygen and nutrients while removing harmful toxins from the muscles and organs. Much like traditional medicine suggests using alternating hot and cold packs to heal aching muscles, the use of hot and cold stones can effectively heal many aches and pains. Many of the ailments in which stone therapy is effective include muscle pains and poor circulation.
Physiologically, the ultimate therapeutic effects of a massage are achieved with the use of heating and cooling temperatures. A local application of contrasting hot and cold for a period as brief as thirty minutes will result in a 95% increase in blood flow to that area.
Cold stones have a decongestant property on the body. Blood vessels and local tissues are toned by alternate vasodilation/vasoconstriction of the hot and cold stones. The body becomes more responsive to its internal and external environments as a result.
Detoxification occurs both locally and systemically and cellular metabolism is improved. Cold stones also can force lactic acid and other wastes out of over-exercised muscles, restoring optimal functioning faster. Similarly, cold stones applied after deep tissue massage minimizes soreness. Another advantage to cold applications is a decrease in nerve conduction, which in turn reduces pain with an analgesic effect.
Cooling temperatures stimulate the autonomic nervous system in a two-fold process. In the initial minutes of a cold application, the body responds with a Stage I (retrostasis) reaction, a pushing of blood from that local area, and a sympathetic (adrenaline) nervous system response.
If the cold application persists longer than ten to fifteen minutes, then a Stage II (derivative) action follows. This draws blood back into these tissues in the body's effort to avoid frostbite, and a parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system response results.
The means of integrating chilled marble stones into a hot stone massage are varied, according to your clients' needs and your specific training. LaStone Therapy offers a range of classes catering to massage therapists, spa therapists, energy workers, aestheticians, oriental medicine practitioners, chiropractors who want to master this technique. I recommend that you visit a LaStone Spa to insure that you experience the correct use of the Cold Stone Therapy.