How to use ice massage to improve shoulder impingement pain fast! - Be My Healer
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How to use ice massage to improve shoulder impingement pain fast!

ice massage supraspinatus

Why ice massage? 

Very little people know about the technique of ice massage. Its purpose is to apply intense cold therapy to a very localized and specific tissue, hoping to numb the pain and reduce inflammation, without causing muscle guarding in the surrounding areas.

supraspinatus tendon

In the case of rotator cuff impingement (supraspinatus tendon impingement, subacromial impingement), ice massage is much more efficient in achieving pain relief and fast recovery than a good old ice pack or frozen peas.​

Ice massage is best done in the combination of resting at the early stage of recovery. If the top of your shoulder has sharp, burning, or stabbing pain when reaching up, you should give ice massage a try.

You may also use ice massage after an exercise session to control irritation from the movements.​

How to make an ice cup

If you are an athlete or suffering from chronic joint pain, you may consider purchasing a CryoCup for design for ice massage use.

However, you can also easily create an ice massage cup with a disposable cup (both paper or foam cup are great)​.

ice massage cup step one
Ice massage cup step two
ice-massage-cup step three
ice-massage cup step 4
  1. Take a disposable cup and fill 2/3 of the cup with water. (Note: foam cups work better due to better temperature isolation)
  2. Place the cup in your fridge until the water freeze into an ice cube.
  3. Peel the edge of the cup until a layer of ice is exposed. Leave some paper or foam for your hand to hold on to.

Ice massage for supraspinatus muscle tendon

What you will need:

  • ​Ice cup from above instructions
  • A dry towel 
  • And ideally: a helper. (Some very flexible people will be able to self-treat with this technique. If you are not flexible, you should get help.)


supraspinatus tendon positioning and pain area

In order to expose the supraspinatus muscle tendon, you need to place your painful side arm behind your back. This way, you can use your other hand to find the painful muscle tendon in the front of your shoulder joint.

If someone is helping you with this treatment, you can mark the painful areas with a pen or marker.​

ice massage supraspinatus tendon

Ice massage:

  • Start by simply rubbing the ice surface over the bare skin on the painful area.
  • Make sure you are constantly moving the ice across the skin by doing little circles. Leaving still ice on bare skin over time can cause frostbite.
  • Use the dry towel to catch any dripping water coming from the ice.
  • The sensation most people expect from ice massage treatment is: intense coldness>intense burning>aching>numbness.
  • From coldness to numbness normally takes about 5-10 mins. Check the sensation frequently by pressing on the painful area to see if you still feel the tenderness. 
  • As soon as your pain is numbed over the supraspinatus muscle tendon, you are done with this session of ice massage.
ice massage sensation

You may place the leftover ice cube back in the fridge and re-use it after a quick rinse (as long as you are applying the ice to the same person).

You can use ice massage treatment up to 3 times per day. The best time to ice up is after working or exercising with shoulders, and before bedtime

Risks and concerns for doing ice massage

Ice massage should NOT be done on people with cold intolerance or the Raynaud's disease. Normally, if you are okay with ice packs, you should be fine with ice massage treatment.

In order to avoid frostbite:

  • ​Always rub the ice in golf ball sized circle
  • Avoid rubbing too much over hard bony areas
  • If the skin color has turned pale, take the ice away for a few seconds to see check if the blood color comes back. If not, change to a different area or end the session
  • Check for numbness frequently. This treatment takes less time than you realize.

Last note: ice massage may not be a comfortable experience for everyone. If you are helping someone with this treatment, ask them how they are doing. Stop the treatment if they cannot tolerate it.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this post helpful.

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