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October 2021

Pain. 1980 Oct; 9(2): 209-17.

Ice massage and transcutaneous electrical stimulation: comparison of treatment for low-back pain.

Melzack R, Jeans ME, Stratford JG, Monks RC.

It has recently been shown that ice massage of the web between the thumb and index finger produces significantly greater relief of dental pain than a placebo control procedure. These results indicate that ice massage may be comparable to transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TES) and acupuncture, and may be mediated by similar neural mechanisms. The purpose of this study was to examine the relative effectiveness of ice massage and TES for the relief of low-back pain. Patients suffering chronic low-back pain were treated with both ice massage and TES. The order of treatments was balanced, and changes in the intensity of pain were measured with the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ). The results show that both methods are equally effective: based on the Pain Rating Index of the MPQ, 67-69% of patients obtained pain relief greater than 33% with each method. The results indicate that ice massage is an effective therapeutic tool, and appears to be more effective than TES for some patients. It may also serve as an additional sensory-modulation method to alternate with TES to overcome adaptation effects. Evidence that cold signals are transmitted to the spinal cord exclusively by A-delta fibers and not by C fibers suggests that ice massage provides a potential method for differentiating among the multiple feedback systems that mediate analgesia produced by different forms of intense sensory input.


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