If you’re an athlete, you know there are different types of soreness: The good kind (the feeling of being productive after a good workout at the gym, or your leg muscles reminding you of the great personal record you had at your latest half marathon), and the kind that has you begging for an Ibuprofen, a foam roller, or a sports massage.
Strenuous exercises result in microscopic tears in muscles. While this may sound awful, the reality is that it is because of these micro tears that muscles grow and get stronger. Typically, you’ll feel the soreness within 24 to 48 hours after the effort. This is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
As you continue working out correctly, every time your muscles experience these micro tears, muscles will replenish the tissue. Repeated often enough, and the person will start to notice definition and muscle growth.
But even the good kind of sore can be a nuisance, and you just want the discomfort to go away. Since it’s so common to hear about ice baths, we wanted to explain whether or not they’re good for you.
Does an ice bath help sore muscles?
The idea of taking an ice bath seems to make sense when you take into account the popularity of using ice packs when you experience swelling.
However, while ice baths do reduce muscle soreness, it only decreases the irritation by about 20%.
Additionally, studies seem to be inconclusive on the benefits of ice baths over other recovery methods, such as compression, post-workout nutrition, or taking Ibuprofen.
Ice Baths Benefits
Although there are other recovery methods that would work just as well, some people still prefer ice baths for their post-workout relief.
If you’re considering trying it out for yourself, below are a couple of benefits of an ice bath:
- Temporary pain relief
- Reduced inflammation
That said, keep in mind that perhaps part of the perceived benefit is thinking that it will help, so you feel like it does.
How to Take an Ice Bath
Ice baths entail filling a tub with an equal mixture of cold water and ice.
If you opt for this type of therapy, keep it short. Six to eight minutes should be enough.
Also, only keep your legs and hips immersed in the water.
How to Help Sore Muscles
If the fact that there isn’t any conclusive scientific evidence establishing the benefits of ice baths makes you want to bypass the torture for something more practical, there are several other options to optimize muscle recovery:
1. Stretch: Stretching before exercise prepares your muscle for the increased level of activity. Doing so after a workout will relieve stiffness and soreness, and improve your range of motion.
2. Proper hydration: Drinking enough water is essential to decrease the chance of muscle cramps. It’s also crucial for muscle recovery, since protein is necessary for muscles to heal, and your cells need water to synthesize proteins.
3. Compression: Compression gear improves blood flow and circulation. In addition, wearing compression sleeves during your workout reduces the amount of impact on your muscles, which translates to less muscle soreness when you’re done competing.
4. Cool down properly: A proper cool down improves blood flow and reduces soreness typically experienced during Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
5. Use a foam roller: Foam rolling releases muscle tension and increases your range of motion better than by stretching alone.
6. Get a sports massage: Massages don’t only feel good, they also loosen up tight muscles and reduce soreness. This allows for a faster recovery.
Related article: 8 Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re an athlete, you need a medical team who thoroughly understands sports medicine. If you’ve been feeling pain and discomfort beyond usual soreness, let us help you get back to doing the things you love.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.