Organs and ice


Manual therapists that know how to listen with their hands to what the bodies of their patients are telling them are worth their weight in gold, as they can zone in on the most important area to treat.

Today I’d like to present something a little different. I’m hoping that you will find some wellness take-aways from what happened to me last week, and that you will endulge a personal story.

Those that have been following these tips for some time probably already know that my biggest health struggle is getting to sleep and staying asleep. I have made huge improvements over the last year to 18 months, but in the effort to improve my sleep still further, I began supplementing with magnesium. My understanding is that magnesium is not easily absorbed via the gut, so I was very excited to get my hands on a topical magnesium oil.

As a general rule I put nothing on my skin but soap and coconut oil, in order to avoid the long list of potential toxins in personal care products. The mineral oil ingredients were water and magnesium chloride, so I didn’t figure there would be an issue. I sprayed the oil on my back and a couple of days later realized that I had developed a very itchy rash. Assuming it was an allergic reaction, I tried antihistamine sprays to take out the itch, but they did not work. I did not think anything was infected and I did not want to use corticosteroids, so I did not go to the doctor. But the itch was unbearable.

In hindsight, that is when I made my biggest mistake. I figured my back was inflamed, so I iced it. Those that know me know that for me to resort to ice means that the itching must have been something aweful, because I tend to be cold and have to fight hard to stay warm. But the ice worked like a charm, easing the itch almost immediately. I iced a few times over the course of the day, and once I think I kept the ice on for as long as 20 minutes.

The following morning when I tried to get out of bed, I realized something was very wrong. As I lifted my head up in order to sit up, I felt a strong pull down the left side of my back. It felt like the inside of my ribcage on the left had been encased in shrink-wrap. Every time I moved, I felt this sproingy tug from about the 6th rib on the left side, down to my left low back. Even when I stood normally, a fairly strong pull remained. The sensation in my back was similar to how it feels if one were to pull back a finger and hold it there for several hours. I also felt a tether pulling my stomach off to the left, and my skin around the whole left side of my trunk felt irritated just like skin feels when one has the flu. This was now in addition to the horrible itching.

What had I done? If you are a health-care practitioner, what would you suspect with that symptomology? What would you do to treat?

My suspicion was that the ice had dehydrated the tissues, and that my spleen had firmly attached itself to the posterior wall inside my ribcage. It felt like the spleen was where all the tethering sensations were originating. Suddenly I was remembering what my mother always used to say when we were kids – “don’t let your coat ride up or you will chill your kidneys”. My partner told me that when he was a boy playing hockey, the coaches would never let them lie on the ice because they might “freeze their organs”. Old wives’ tales? Or based in some truth? Certainly ice is commonly recommended to relieve inflammation, and I don’t recall hearing any caveats with respect to icing the back.

I stretched in every way I could think of to sheer the organ away, to no avail. I tried heat and stretched after that. Nope. So, for the last couple of days I’ve been incredibly uncomfortable in pretty much any position. This weekend I’m in a course with a bunch of manual therapists, so today I begged and pleaded for a treatment.

My therapist spent about 20 minutes listening with her hands to what my body was telling her. She did not want me to tell her my story because she knew that that would confuse her sense of touch. Her hands told her that no, the issue was not my spleen but rather that my left kidney, which had been pulled up against my spasming diaphragm. My spleen and stomach were coming along for the ride, but the primary problem was the kidney. She proceded to treat it, and about 5 minutes later I noticed the tethering sensations were gone. I am so grateful! I feel considerably better, and hopefully over the next day or so the achy skin will calm down too.

It is important to understand that our organs are supposed to slide and glide with respect to each other, and with respect to the canister that contains them. They should be attached only at their attachment sites – not be glommed together or glued to the walls. When many think of pain or discomfort, they think muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, but the discomfort can also be caused by a tethering from one or more organs, or from the nerves.

When something stops moving as it should, whether that something is a muscle, joint, nerve or organ, the body is forced to compensate for that lack of movement. Pain or disease happens when the body is no longer able to compensate.

Painkillers only treat symptoms. If there is pain, there is a cause somewhere. And that cause might be very far away from where the pain is. Manual therapists who know how to listen with their hands to what the bodies of their patients are telling them, can locate those causes and help resolve them.

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Related tips:
Posture, leg-length discrepencies, musculoskeletal pain and organ function
It’s all in your head – I mean neck!
Shall I rearrange your face?
Tail wagging the head or head wagging the tail?

Wright, Karen The physics of negative pressure. The Minus Touch. Discover Magazine, 03 01 2003.

Copyright 2011 Vreni Gurd


  1. valerie said,

    June 18, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

    did the rash and itch go away, how long did it take, and what did you do to soothe it? I have this rash/itch on my neck for 3 days now from mag oil.

  2. Vreni said,

    June 20, 2011 @ 12:14 am

    Hi Valerie,

    The rash took a couple of weeks to go away. I didn’t really find anything that worked to sooth it but not scratching. Sleeping was tough as lying on my back flared it up.

    If you are going to continue to use the oil, I’d only use it on your legs, and I’d dilute it with water.

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