Most of us are familiar with the traditional way of using ice. You put the ice (with a protective cloth) on the area that is swollen or in pain. It creates a little emergency. Your body says, “Hey! That’s cold! Let’s put some blood in there to warm it!” This tried and true method compresses out waste and flushes the area with blood while reducing inflammation. That is especially good for stabilizing acute injuries as well as rehabbing strain and sprain.
Here is a very different way to use ice to release muscle pain.
Janet Travell was the physician to a couple of U.S. presidents and led the march to great research about trigger points. In her book, she treats trigger points by spraying a vapo-coolant onto the skin to disable the restrictive effects of the trigger point. This distracts the nervous system so that the muscle lengthens without the usual pain and referral. She said that this method of treatment is the workhorse of trigger point therapy. You can do something similar at home.
You can quickly stretch the problems out of muscle much faster than normal by shocking the skin with a little hot or cold just before the stretch. By the way, the muscles that are most tense and trigger point laden are usually the most sensitive to the ice and in the most need of treatment..
Here is a video where I use an ice-cube to release the tension in my neck and reduce headaches and neck pain. I do this with clients at my office using an ice-cube that I make in a 3oz bathroom cup. I also do this with a hot stone from the stone heater. I use a stone that is slightly warmer than normal but still in a safe range. The hot stone can be handy for people with an aversion to cold. I don’t have an easy way to do this at home, so use your ice-cube.
The whole video takes about 9 minutes and the icing part only takes about 5. It is an amazingly quick and easy way to reduce pain using stuff that you have on hand. If there is an underlying problem, the trigger point won’t release or will come back soon. See your neuromuscular therapist for lasting relief.
Would you like to use ice and stretch for other muscles? You can relieve soreness and speed up any stretching routine by following the guidelines in this post on ice and stretch.
Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients.
He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.