We all hear that you should ice after sustaining an injury, but does it really work? What about icing after a workout? For those of you who are interested in performance, can using ice help performance and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)?
The purpose of ice is to decrease or slow down the rate of inflammation, limit tissue hypoxia, decrease the temperature to the affected area, all while reducing the pain.
The real question is can it help for performance? YES, it can!
How Icing Post-exercise Can Improve Performance?
By icing the affected area post-workout, there is a better chance of recovery. A better recovery means that there is likely less soreness, fatigue, and damage to the muscle.
Think about the cumulative affect of it. If you are working out five days a week, and after each day you are sore, but keep using your muscles, a cumulative damage can occur. Things like strains, sprains, and tendonitis can start to set in and by then it may be too late before your performance is affected. Keep in mind that the smallest amount of deficits, can dramatically affect your performance. By adding ice (cryotherapy) post-workout, you can slow the damage, recovery better, and therefore you can likely train harder and/or with less damage. So you see, the better you recover, the better chances you have to train again and at a higher level.
What Kind of Icing Should I Do?
There are several types of “icing” and now that there is a new fancy way (whole-body cryotherapy), what is the best way to in order to maximally increase your performance?
A study done using ice massage, cold-water immersion therapy, and passive recovery was tested. The results showed that those who used the cryotherapy had lower values of lactate than passive recovery. It appeared that cold-water immersion was slightly more efficient than the ice massage with regard to decreasing the lactate. The study also showed a decrease in pain levels for those individuals 72 hours post-exercise.
Another study was to show the effects of cold-water immersion therapy on exercise performance. This was done using high intensity interval training sessions and providing the subjects with passive recovery, immediate cold-water immersion, and 3-hour post exercise cold water immersion. The results were that cold-water immersion showed a benefit over passive recovery. More interestingly, the results of immediate post-exercise cold-water immersion therapy had been superior with regard to blood samples of the passive recovery but the 3-hour post exercise immersion group still showed a benefit.
If you are considering performance, sports, recovery, or just a desire for better health, you should consider using ice to help your recovery! We all don’t have the immediate access to cold-water immersion but using it when you have the time or opportunity can really help with recovery. If you are suffering from a localized injury, it may be better use ice massage but if you have generalized soreness or whole body soreness, cold-water immersion therapy may be your best option. For more information on when to use ice or heat, click the link!