Basics of Ice and Stretch

You can get rid of pain, soreness and restricted range of motion quickly with ice-and-stretch. You can adapt any stretch routine that you have to be faster, more effective and easier by changing it to and Ice and Stretch routine.

Ice and stretch is a great adaptation of Active Isolated Stretching and Stretch-n-Spray.

aismattesmethod47675Active Isolated Stretching is more effective than any other form of stretching that I have ever seen. You can read about how I became a believer in this post. It has several advantages over other forms of stretching:

  • AIS builds muscle as it lengthens
  • AIS often mobilizes fixations in joints that prevent trigger points from releasing
  • AIS is safer than traditional stretching
  • AIS works with the nervous system instead of against it

line - black 400stretch and sprayStretch-n-Spray was used with a vapo-coolant that is only available by prescription. Using ice creates a similar effect without the expense and trouble of the prescribed vapo-coolant. Shocking the skin with cold from ice or a vapo-coolant:

  • releases the muscle’s resistance to stretch
  • reduces the muscle’s pain response during stretch
  • dramatically softens the muscle
  • prepares the muscle for other treatments like massage or stretching

Using ice this way is very different than using and ice pack or ice plunges. 

  • Ice packs apply sustained cold that create a bit of an emergency for the body. It sees that temperature has changed and flushes the area with blood to warm the area. This flushes out metabolic waste and brings blood to areas that usually have diminished blood flow like ligaments, tendons and sheets of fascia. This reduces inflammation and speeds healing. Ice plunges are similar but more intense and more effective when appropriate such as ankle sprains.
  • Ice and stretch is a different game with the nervous system. Hilton’s Law espouses that the nerve root that feeds the skin over a muscle and joint feeds the muscle and joint as well. The nerve that senses cold, also senses heat and pain. By creating a shocking the skin with cold, the pain response is diminished and the muscle relaxes. In practice, when the skin is stroked with ice, the muscle becomes softer, is easily lengthened and generates less discomfort.

line - black 400Using these two in combination
can make stretching much quicker and more effective
than traditional stretching or AIS by itself.

The Process

You will need:

  • A big chunk of ice. I’ve tried a number of things but I like the whiskey drinker’s ice-cube trays for convenience and ease of use. They work better than small disposable cups or those fancy icing contraptions that are sold for this sort of icing. Really.
  • A wash cloth. You can use a paper towel, if you don’t have a washcloth handy but it usually takes several to to something like a full routine of icing your neck or hip.


Here is a GIF of the basics of ice and stretch.
If it isn’t moving, click on it to put it in motion.


Here are the steps:

  • Rub ice area over the muscle to be stretched. 
    • It is important that the ice is shocking to the skin. In fact, when an area of skin is more sensitive to ice, it indicates that the muscle is tighter with more active trigger points.
    • Dry with the wash cloth as you go. It’s not just to stop it from dripping. For some reason, it creates a better release so that stretching is more effective.
  • Stretch the iced area 4 or more times.
    • Stretch slowly, especially at the end of the movement.
    • Stretch to the point of light irritation, not more
    • Don’t hold the stretch for more than 2 seconds
    • If you assist, do so lightly to guide the movement, not intensify the stretch
    • Always return to the starting position before the next repetition
  • A few tips
    • Stretching harder or faster doesn’t seem to work, instead do more reps.
    • A second application of ice is not as effective as it doesn’t shock the skin as intensely to create the same effect on the nervous system.
    • Ice and stretch is better when used in a full routine. than spot stretches here and there.

If you’d like to see an example
of how to get rid of pain and create greater range of motion
using ice and stretch
go to this post.


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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.

Question? Comment? Typo?
The Body
(404) 226-1363


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