Cold Gel Packs Applied to Back Muscle Decreases Pain in Fibromyalgia Patients, Study Finds

Cold Gel Packs Applied to Back Muscle Decreases Pain in Fibromyalgia Patients, Study Finds

Cold application using a gel pack on a major back muscle for short periods of time can significantly decrease pain scores in fibromyalgia patients, according to new research.

The study, “The effects of local cold application on fibromyalgia pain,” was published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.

The use of whole-body cold applications (called cryotherapy) has been a therapeutic strategy for fibromyalgia patients, with reported short-term pain relief. In some studies, pain reduction is felt two hours after the application and may last up to 24 hours.

Now, researchers investigated the effects of local cold application on pain using gel packs applied to the trapezius muscles of fibromyalgia patients. The trapezius is a major back muscle that’s responsible for moving, rotating, and stabilizing the shoulder blades, lifting the shoulders, and holding up the neck and head.

The trapezius covers most of the upper back and the exterior of the neck and is a common source of pain in fibromyalgia patients. However, “a review of the literature revealed no studies to date on cold applications to the trapezius muscles of [fibromyalgia] patients,” the researchers wrote.

The study was conducted in one group of 55 fibromyalgia patients who went to a rheumatology outpatient clinic in Turkey for treatment. Patients were submitted to a 10-minute cold application administered to their trapezius muscle.

The pain was evaluated four times – before the cold application, and 10 minutes, 90 minutes, and 24 hours after the therapy. The pain score was monitored through the visual analog scale (VAS).

The results showed that the patients’ mean pain score was significantly higher before the application of the cold gel packs. Specifically, 6.45 vs. 2.75 at 10 minutes; 2.45 at 90 minutes; and 3.36 at 24 hours.

The findings show that pain scores in fibromyalgia patients decreased 10 minutes and 90 minutes after the cold applications. At 24 hours, the pain score increased when compared to the earlier time-points, but still remained lower than the mean score of 6.45 before the cold application.

Overall, this study “suggests a new method of controlling pain in [fibromyalgia] patients and will serve as a guide for pain management, especially in nursing practice,” the researchers concluded.

But they added that additional studies are needed to assess the maximum duration and mechanisms of local cold applications to the trapezius of fibromyalgia patients.

7 comments

  1. DFW Mom says:

    We could also say a prayer over it. Yes, icing painful areas can make make them temporarily less painful. Research also says that watching TV, saying prayers, exercising (BTW this is dangerous and can make it worse), etc. can all reduce pain from fibromyalgia. But, when fibromyalgia patients come to DOCTORS, we are looking for MEDICAL interventions. My mother could have offered this elementary advice of using an ice pack. So, what do we even need doctors for? Please remember to put some ice on that sprain, that you will undoubtedly get from patting yourself on your own back for this groundbreaking research, and, then, maybe you could consider doing some SERIOUS reserch, looking for the underlying causes and potential therapeutic biological targets for intervention. If I see one more study about icing painful areas, exercising, or any other kindergarten childishness from the medical community on the VERY SERIOUS SUBJECT OF FIBROMYALGIA, I’m going to fire the doctors and hire Mom, because if you want MOM advice, go to MOM. If you want patients to take you seriously, you need to stop acting like someone’s mother and start acting like a doctor and taking this seriously!! Maybe you should tell your patients when they get lost and can’t find their way home to put some ice on their heads. Ice is not going to stop the fibro fog, dermatographia, fatigue, gait disorder, sleep disorders, (insert 100 more symptoms here) that fibro patients suffer. But, don’t worry that you missed a few (pretty much ALL) of the Fibro symptoms. Just ask yourself, “What would Mickey Mouse do?”, because it’s pretty obvious you are NOT serious about this.

  2. Anita says:

    This is such an elementary practice I’m surprised it was researched. Seems like a waste of time and money when there are much more critical issues that need research.

  3. Diane says:

    Agree with Anita. We need a cure not ice. We all now about ice and heat. Give us something worth value. Something new not 100’s of years old.

  4. BILLIE JO SEGARS says:

    I have to agree with everyone here. As if we haven’t tried the ice and the heat, and the exercise and every other method we know to relieve pain. And this is what funding for research goes toward. Who is in charge of selecting these studies? We need more neurological research to aid in the causing factors of Fibro. From cryotherapy to an ice pack. Wow!

  5. Mya lee says:

    I just woke up in absolute agony I can’t even stand straight . ICE would kill me right now. I have a feeling Fibro & sleep Have a connection bc I can get to my very minimal pain but then I sleep & I wake stiff in agony . 29 yr Fibro girl.

  6. Denise Bault says:

    WOW. First I read about how caffeine helps fibromyalgia sufferers keep awake. Now I find out that ice helps pain. REALLY GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH HERE! I wonder how much money was wasted on this “research”? Could have been better spent looking for an actual cause/cure! I don’t know why these researchers keep coming up with crap like this. And who is stupid enough to fund it?????

  7. Lisa Radelet says:

    It’s hard to tell without reading the actual study, but could they be saying that application of a cold pack to one local area (the trap muscle) reduced the all-over full body pain of fibromyalgia patients? If so, that actually is news and is a lot different than Mom telling you to put ice on your sprained ankle (the part that hurts).

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