Is cold therapy a waste of time? The world’s top athletes don’t think so. Everyone from LeBron James to Chad Ochocinco uses ice and cold therapy daily to speed the healing process and reduce tightness, bruises, soreness and pain.
A study in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that athletes who applied ice or cold therapy after intense physical activity had less joint stiffness and lactic acid build up than athletes who had no therapy.
These recovery benefits stem from the body’s natural response to cold temperature. When an area is chilled, blood vessels constrict and nerves become numb, thus reducing blood flow and pain. Cold application also relieves swelling and inflammation by restricting the stream of blood and other fluid that build up around an injury. When normal body temperature is restored, new blood rushes in and flushes out toxins that inhibit efficient recovery. Damaged tissue then quickly repairs itself, diminishing any remaining soreness.
Using ice or cold therapy on a daily basis helps your body repair itself for the next time you step on the field. Follow these guidelines to reap the full recovery benefits:
- Use an ice bath immediately after competition or intense workout. Fill a bathtub with cold water and add one or two five-pound bags of ice so the temperature is 54 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Stay in the bath for approximately 10 minutes, and follow up with a warm shower 30 to 60 minutes afterward.
- To reduce inflammation and pain, place an ice bag or pack on the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour. Continue icing for 48 hours or until inflammation or pain subsides.
- Place a thin towel around the ice if the cold temperature becomes painful.
- Don’t ice more than recommended, because frostbite can occur.