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Chiropractic Research Review

Ice Massage More Effective than Ice Bag?

Cryotherapy applied to injured muscle lowers the temperature of the affected tissue; this temperature reduction helps the tissue survive the period of hypoxia (low oxygen levels) which commonly follows injury.

While the value of cryotherapy has been established, consistent treatment times for optimal intramuscular cooling have not been recorded in previous research.

A study of 14 uninjured subjects (two groups of seven subjects each) measured muscle temperature responses to two frequently used cryotherapy techniques: ice massage or ice bags. Subjects were treated for 15 minutes as a hypodermic microprobe, inserted to one-half skinfold thickness plus 1 cm into the medial aspect of the gastrocnemius muscle, measured temperature change.

Ice massage achieved its lowest temperature in an average of 17.9 minutes; the ice bag reached its lowest temperature in 28.2 minutes. These results suggest that both ice massage and ice bags are effective in reducing intramuscular temperature and maintaining temperature depression, but that, as the authors specify, "when rapid cooling is needed, as in acute muscular trauma, ice massage appears to provide a faster intramuscular cooling rate than an ice bag."

Zemke JE, Andersen JC, Guion WK, et al. Intramuscular temperature responses in the human leg to two forms of cryotherapy: ice massage and ice bag. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, April 1998:27(4), pp301-307.

Chiropractic Research Review

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