There are many variations of massage that each work to specifically alleviate certain ailments often experienced after a vigorous workout. Figuring out the various techniques and movements that best cater to your sore muscles can help make massages an essential component of your post-exercise recovery routine. One of the lesser known styles of massage therapy that’s often undervalued is providing yourself with an ice massage. This simple approach to aiding your body’s recovery process combines the natural therapeutic effects of ice with the soothing abilities of active motion upon an area of soreness or swelling. Take a look at how ice massage therapy may provide you with the relief you need, as well as the proper techniques to perform it:
How ice helps
Of course, ice has long been regarded as one of the quickest and easiest methods for addressing a variety of ailments, ranging from muscle pain and swelling to inflammation from exercise-related injuries. The National Institutes of Health lists swollen muscles as one of the most common sports injuries dealt with by athletes, and recommends applying ice to a body part experiencing discomfort as the fastest way to reduce swelling. Failure to adequately decrease swelling upon an initial injury can severely delay the body’s healing process, causing you to miss out on valuable exercise time.
Dr. Laurel J. Freeman, a sports massage therapist with RNR Massage Therapy, reports that in addition to being able to efficiently reduce swelling, using ice therapy techniques to treat an injury can also help decrease the possibility of tissue damage, muscle spasms, inflammation and blood clot formation. Freeman added ice is essentially the universal treatment option for immediately addressing a wide variety of injuries.
“Ice enhances the flow of nutrients into the area, aids in the removal of metabolites (waste products), increases strength and promotes healing,” Freeman said in his report titled “Ice Therapy.” “This ‘ice effect’ is not related to age, sex, or circumference of the injured area. For the greatest benefits, use ice after exercise and not before.”
Power of ice and massage
According to SportsMD.com, ice massages are a variation of cryotherapy, which uses cold to alleviate sports injuries. Cryotherapy has been utilized specifically for treating injuries that involve acute inflammation, chronic pain or postsurgical swelling or discomfort. This is why ice massage has been recommended for anyone who has experienced musculoskeletal injuries, such as severe bruises, sprains or fractures, as the ice reduces sensation and blood flow while the gentle rotating movement helps mobilize the soft tissue.
“Studies find ice massages help enhance muscle and nerve cell function.”
One study published by the National Institutes of Health involved researchers trying to determine the effects ice massages can have upon post-exercise electromyography activity, which is a procedure used to determine the health and function of muscles and the nerve cells that control them. The subjects were 15 athletes, who, after performing various lower body exercises, were either assigned to ice massage therapy sessions or detuned ultrasound meetings. After analyzing the results, the researchers ultimately concluded that athletes provided with the ice massage therapy sessions had more significant improvements in electromyography activity than those in the other group, indicating that the technique was able to enhance overall muscle and nerve cell function.
Proper ice massage techniques
There are two primary ways to go about providing your body with an ice massage. The first is making your own ice cups, using generic paper cups that can hold roughly 3-4 ounces of water. Fill the cup up at least two-thirds of the way full and freeze it until it’s completely frozen. Afterwards, peel the top of the cup off until the ice is showing and hold onto the cup from the bottom. Begin gently rubbing the ice in small circles around the injured area, and continue for no more than 10 minutes.
Another way is to put your personal massager in the freezer and wait until the spheres are completely cold. An excellent device for this method is to use the Moji Curve PRO, which is officially safe to freeze and use upon any painful or swelling injury you’re experiencing.