8 Comments

  1. jeffrey16201

    Hello,

    I found your article interesting about athletes using ice baths, I have heard of athletes using ice baths but never understood why.

    I really do not think this would be healthy for anyone to do even athletes, I have experienced even using an ice pack bothers my body in some ways like a kind of shock treatment and the chills are even worse.

    What would you use for an alternate to ice baths if you were an athlete?

    • Thabo Nkomo

      Hi Jeffrey,

      I’m so glad to hear from you again. You always have some useful insights to share. I have to say that I completely agree with you that ice baths are not the best way for an athlete to manage pain and recovery. I wrote the post because I believe that the opposite is true –ice baths I think prolong recovery.

      I think an alternative to icing muscles is learning to move them correctly. So, I think yoga and acupuncture, under the right supervision, are great alternatives to ice baths.

      Take care Jeffrey, and feel free to contact me any time should you have more questions.

      Thabo

  2. shrey

    Ice baths seem pretty useful but How can one stay in for long in the winter season, I mean it is really cold and no one would like to go for an ice bath during that season so what are the alternatives to it.
    This seems like something seasonal and not as pleasant as it might sound. Ice baths can be painful if the water is too cold? What are your thoughts?

    • Thabo Nkomo

      Hi Shrey,

      I think while ice baths may prove useful to some elite runners, for most people it’s not a good idea. studies have shown that ice baths actually reduce most of the gains of going to the gym. Ice baths decreased gains in muscle mass and strength and blunted key proteins responsible for muscle growth. This means that if you worked hard in the gym to get stronger so you can go faster, you will erase the gains by taking an ice bath.

      Now, ice baths have shown to give a psychological boost. I think a cold shower can make you feel good without the detriment of reducing gains made through your hard training.

      But Shrey, I honestly think one doesn’t have to go through all that trouble. I’m a big believer that humans were meant to move. You just function better when you move. Thus, learning to move your body correctly is far healthier than dumping your body in ice water. I think Yoga would be a far better alternative.

      Now if you have something like heel pain, Plantar Fasciitis, than using icing for a limited time will help decrease the pain. In fact, that’s the subject of a post I’m working on. Keep an eye for it. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me should you have anymore questions.

  3. ALFIE

    This is really an informative post. I actually do have a few of my friend that engage in this ice bath of a thing and I always wonder why they do it. Just like you, I cant see the reason they should go that way when there are lots of better ways to get the muscles relaxed and recover fast.
    I wouldn’t dare dip my legs in a chill water not to talk of an icy one. I would rather get on the mat for a good Yoga session.

    • Hi Alfie,

      Elite athletes like ultra runner Nikki Kamball believe that ice abates are one of the most effective ways to offset the damage done by a marathon run.As I told Shrey, I believe, however, that the overwhelming evidence is that ice baths do more damage than good in helping a person recover from muscle injury. Studies have been done on this very subject.
      It’s worth repeating that the evidence show that ice baths decreased gains in muscle mass and strength and blunted key proteins responsible for muscle growth. This means, as I said before, that if you worked hard in the gym to get stronger so you can go faster, you will erase the gains by taking an ice bath. Again, the subjects in this study were not elite and were training only twice per week—which is what the majority of people do. So for most of us, ice baths are a very bad idea if we want fast recovery from injury.

  4. Philip Valenti

    I agree with you that ice baths are not the best way to ensure muscle recovery. It seems to me that they may just do the opposite. They may instead extend the period needed for recovery. I think there are far batter ways to recover from injury associated with running. One can try low impact sports like swimming. Great post.

    • Hi Philip,

      Athletes who promote the use of ice baths to speed up muscle recovery like to point out how ice baths decrease inflammation and fight muscle soreness. That said, here is something to consider.

      Might ice baths decrease inflammation and soreness and therefore lessen the trigger for adapting to the training the athlete has just completed.

      In other words, by delaying the soreness, fatigue, and reducing inflammation, ice baths may prolong the recovery process. So ice baths may indeed extend the period needed for recovery. You make an excellent point about using low impact sports as part of the recovery routine.

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