Say Goodbye to Tendonitis Pain with Ice Massage
Have you ever felt a dull, achy, or throbbing pain coming from your shoulder and arm? Have you ever felt a sharp or stabbing pain when reaching above your head, across the front of your body or behind your back? If you said “yes” to one or both of these questions, you may have inflammation of the tendons in your rotator cuff tendons or bicep tendon of your shoulder, also known as tendonitis.
I had this problem in my right shoulder twice while attending the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), feeling most of these symptoms and was unable to sleep on my right side. I also had difficulty doing anything above shoulder level or reaching away from my body especially when lifting weights. I am very thankful that I was allowed to go through this type of pain as I now understand what workers and patients are feeling and it allows me to empathize with their situations.
What is Tendonitis?
It is pain and inflammation of a tendon. You have over 1,200 tendons in your body, and tendons attach muscle to bone. Common posture and work habits may aggravate these shoulder tendons including awkward postures like reaching for your computer mouse, lifting items above shoulder level, driving your car with only one hand on the steering wheel and sleeping on your sides.
When your muscles contract, tendons pull on your bones to move your body’s joints allowing you to perform the task you are doing. These forces are what cause your bones to become and stay strong over time. However, if you have poor posture habits such as forward head and rounded shoulders posture (stooped sitting and standing) and you spend much of your workday working above shoulder level or with your arms fully extended away from your body, you may have an increased risk of developing bicep and/ or rotator cuff tendonitis.
Tendonitis pain can also be common in the elbow, wrist, thumb, knee, Achilles and foot.
Prevention and Treatment
Ice massage is the best self-care technique for preventing and treating tendonitis pain. I recommend performing ice massage two to four times a day, with the end of the workday being one of the most important times of the day to perform the technique. Other times may include before work, at lunch or mid-shift or before bed if the pain and inflammation is waking you up at night.
You can do this procedure in two ways, by filling up a Styrofoam cup with water and putting this in the freezer to freeze. Tearing off the top edges of the cup and rubbing the ice directly over the area of pain for 2 to 4 minutes until the body part is numb.
Ice massage can be performed in two ways. You can fill a Styrofoam cup with water and put this into the freezer. Once it’s frozen, tear the top edges off the cup and rub ice directly over the area for 2 to 4 minutes until the body part is numb. Or, you may also hold an ice cube directly from the freezer on the impacted area and perform this same technique until that body part feels number.
With ice, you’ll feel the following progression of symptoms: first, it will feel cold and painful, then it will burn, ache, and then turn numb. When you feel numb, you have completed the ice massage and your shoulder, elbows, wrists or thumbs will thank you.
Typically after three to seven days of performing ice massage two to four times each day, you should notice 75% or better improvement with ease of range of motion, improved daily activities at work, home and play and a significant reduction of pain with improved restful sleep too.
In addition to ice massage, you can also prevent and treat tendonitis by:
- Improving your posture habits (head up and shoulders back)
- Stretching your hips, chest and trunk two to three times throughout the workday
- Drinking 40+ ounces of water, working towards half of body weight in ounces
- Quitting smoking or the use of tobacco products as they slow your body’s healing process
- Improving the muscle strength of your abdominals, upper back postural muscles and rotator cuff muscles