Recovery from training has become just as important as training for an athlete. Teams and physios are always looking for the best methods to help sports stars recover from their grueling training sessions as quickly as possible.
Ice baths claim to: reduce muscle soreness after heavy exertion, keep muscles limber, repair muscles, reduce muscle and soft tissue inflammation, induce better sleep, reduce muscle pain, reduce muscle stiffness, prevent injury, speed recovery between training sessions, and help you feel good afterwards.
The theory behind ice baths: intense exercise actually causes microtrauma, or tiny tears in muscle fibers. This muscle damage not only stimulates muscle cell activity and helps repair the damage and strengthen the muscles but it also helps delayed onset of muscle soreness; the pain felt days after exercise. By constricting blood vessels waste products are flushed from muscles. The rewarming increases blood flow and speeds circulation to improve the healing process. Few of these claims have been scientifically studied and don’t do well under scrutiny. It may feel good afterwards, especially if you are feeling hot from the workout. You may like to cool off in the lake or in a cool shower after a hot summer workout. But, would you really consider a cool shower or dip in the lake after you come in from a Nordic ski session?!
As plausible as the science sounds, there’s a lot of contradicting research and many researchers would agree that ice baths don’t help, and may do more harm than good.
Some studies found ice baths did not improve muscle soreness or next performance parameters and even increased pain 24 hours post submersion compared to control groups.
At the moment, the only sound advice is to do what ever feels best for you. Research shows if you believe it’s going to work then you’re more likely to feel the benefits!