Care Shoulder & Arm By Sophie Xie / November 8, 2016 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. 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 cupIf 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). Take a disposable cup and fill 2/3 of the cup with water. (Note: foam cups work better due to better temperature isolation)Place the cup in your fridge until the water freeze into an ice cube.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 tendonWhat you will need:Ice cup from above instructionsA 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.)Positioning: 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: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. 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 massageIce 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 circleAvoid rubbing too much over hard bony areasIf 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 sessionCheck 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.Recommended readings:Got Shoulder impingement? What are you impinging on?Simple self test to find out if you have shoulder impingementNeck and shoulder pain? 3 clinically proven stretches for pain reliefCarpal tunnel syndrome? 3 foolproof tests to find causes of hand numbnessLike what you just read? Share this post via our social media buttons! They are everywhere on this page!Want to know more about treating your own pain with techniques from a physical therapist? Please subscribe to our newsletter!