Ice Massage For the Reduction of Labor Pain is based on the work done by Dr. Ronald Melzack and Dr. Patrick Wall at the McGill University in Canada. In the early 1960's Drs. Melzack and Wall proposed a new tgheory of pain mechanism. According to their Gate Control Theory of Pain, stimulation of the skin creates nerve impulses that are transmitted to the spinal-cord sytem; nerve impulses that can be inhibited or enhanced at the level of the spinal cord. Nerve impulses traveling toward the brain in the smaller nerve fibers of the spinal cord proceed at a steady rate. This continuous discharge keeps the pain gate open and the transmission of pain is enhanced.
Nerve impulses traveling toward the brain through large nerve fibers in the spinal cord occur in a burst of impulses. These burst-type impulses are mainly inhibitory and have the effect of keeping the pain gate partially closed resulting in diminishing the perception of the pain intensity. When the large fiber impulses are artificially stimulated by vibration, scratching, or ice massage, the gate further closes resulting in a decrease in the sensation of pain.
Ice has been successfully used in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain over the years. Dr. Melzack studied the use of ice massage of the web of the skin between the thumb and forefinger for the reduction of acute dental pain. His work showed a 50 percent reduciton in acute dental pain.
Drs. Melzack and Wall did not describe in their published study how they came to decide on the seleted anatomical area to uuse ice massage. However, the two physicians did studies comparing acupuncture to TENS (transcutaneous electricla nerve stimulation) for pain relief. Located within the anatomical area they massaged on the hand, is an acupressure meridian point described in acupuncture literature as Hoku of Large Intestine 4 (LI4).
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