Do ice baths help with muscle recovery?
Also known as cold water immersion, it’s commonly believed that ice baths help with muscle recovery after significant workouts, and they can even encourage proper muscle development or decrease soreness. If you are an athlete, chances are high that you have either tried cold water immersion yourself, or had it suggested to you. While some people swear by them as a recovery aid, others find them simply miserable and useless.
So, what’s the real story? Do ice baths help with muscle recovery? Coach Ben Kelley offered an explanation of how ice baths work and a suggestion on how to optimize your muscle recovery by adapting the idea to be more effective.
Let’s look at the research
Ice baths do have an effect on muscle recovery after workouts, but to get the greatest impact, try out contrasting temperature water immersion, or CTWI.
CTWI consists of immersing a limb first in cold, then in hot water at a specific temperature, rate and time. CTWI has been shown in the research to decrease blood lactate concentration and heart rate when athletes perform at least three rounds of one-minute immersions, alternating between hot and cold water. This should be done after repeated exercise.
The blend of dilation and constriction of blood vessels caused by the rapid temperature changes and possible increase in pressure within the muscles increases local blood flow.
What does this mean?
Alternating between hot and cold water immersion may help “pump out” muscle lactate, free radicals and metabolic waste that make you feel sore. In addition, it may introduce healing cells and oxygenated blood, along with reducing inflammation and tissue breakdown to accelerate the recovery process.
How does this apply to you?
Incorporating CTWI therapy into your training program can be an effective way to recover faster, as well as improving mental concentration and pain tolerance.
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