Ice can help decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation that can result from injury and from some conditions such as arthritis. Ice massage is a quick and easy way to get the benefits of ice.
You can use an ice cube, but it's easier to use an "ice cup" for ice massage.
To make an ice cup, fill a small paper or foam cup about two-thirds full, and freeze it until it is solid.
To use the ice cup, peel off the top of the cup so about 1.5 cm (0.5 in.) of ice is showing. The remaining part of the cup is for you to hold on to.
As the ice melts, it will drip, so put a small towel under the area you are icing.
Rub the ice in small circles all over the affected area. Avoid areas where the bone is close to the skin, such as right over your kneecap, the point of your elbow, or your spine. Some people also find it is more comfortable to put a moisture barrier such as a section of plastic bag over the area, so the ice is not directly touching the skin. To try this, hold the plastic in place with one hand and rub the ice over it with the other hand.
If the ice melts down so the cup is touching your skin, peel more of the cup off.
Continue for about 7 to 10 minutes. The area will feel cold at first, then it may burn, then ache, then finally become numb. Your skin will be pink and cold when you finish.
You can do an ice massage several times a day if it helps you.
Basford JR, Baxter GD (2010). Therapeutic physical agents. In WR Frontera et al., eds., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice, 5th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1691-1712. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerJoan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy