Cold water immersion, also called cryotherapy or an ice bath, is a practice in which an athlete takes a 10-15 minute dip in very cold water after intense exercise, to help reduce muscle pain and soreness. Many experts believe in the benefits of ice baths, including Dr. A. Brion Gardner, an orthopedic surgeon with The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, and Dr. Thanu Jey, the clinic director at Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic. However, there are potential side effects and risks to consider, including the risk of hypothermia and cardiac arrest or stroke for people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure.
10 Key Takeaways
Ice baths are believed to help reduce muscle pain and soreness after intense physical activity, but a 2017 study suggests there may be no benefit to sore muscles.
An active recovery, such as 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise on a stationary bike, is just as good for recovery as cold water immersion (CWI).
Experts still believe in using ice baths despite the results of the 2017 study, which consisted of only 9 young men.
Ice baths can ease sore and aching muscles and make the body feel good.
Ice baths can help the central nervous system by aiding in sleep, improving reaction time, and explosiveness in future workouts.
Ice baths may limit the inflammatory response and decrease the amount of inflammation to help you recover faster.
Ice baths may decrease the effect of heat and humidity, leading to improved performance.
One of the main benefits of an ice bath is being able to train the vagus nerve, which is linked with the parasympathetic nervous system and can help you face stressful situations more adequately.
The primary risk of an ice bath applies to people who have a preexisting cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure and may be at risk for cardiac arrest or stroke due to decreased blood flow.
The temperature of an ice bath needs to be approximately 10-15° Celsius or 50-59° Fahrenheit, and the time in the ice bath should be limited to no longer than 10-15 minutes.