Ice baths… are they freezing your progress?

Ice baths… are they freezing your progress?

Ice baths are used widely throughout professional and amateur sports to aid recovery, but are they beneficial to you, or do you just do it to follow the pros?


The theory!

The theory behind ice baths requires a  basic understanding of the healing process. There are three phases of healing… inflammation, repair and remodelling. In the inflammation stage, the body attempts to prevent more damage to an area by surrounding it with fluid to remove waste products and immobilise the area.


During high intensity training, such as weight training, microtrauma occurs throughout the muscles, which means the inflammatory phase of healing occurs. This can cause muscle soreness, which can cause a decline in training productivity.


The idea behind the ice baths is that it prevents or reduces the inflammatory phase of healing, reducing the muscle soreness and subsequently the decline in performance.

ice baths

But, does the theory fit reality?

The theory fits in alignment with why we use ice to reduce swelling for injury, however it isn’t always the result we want. By preventing/reducing the inflammatory phase, you may also be limiting the training adaptations that occur from high intensity training.


For example, during weight training, the muscle fibres rebuild thicker after the microtrauma which is how you get stronger, but by affecting the inflammatory process, you also affect the rebuilding and remodelling process. So essentially, while you may reduce your muscle soreness, you may also be inhibiting your training adaptations.


When and where to use ice baths?

This is not to say that ice baths are completely useless. After a big competition, or during a competition phase, where the result is the priority rather than development, ice baths can play a major part in allowing for optimum performance over a period of time.


However, during a training phase where adaptations are the key, there are a lot of other ways to optimise recovery!


If you want to know more about recovery, don’t be afraid to contact us for some advice. Struggling with an injury that ice baths won’t solve? Call us today for a no obligation chat or book in for your initial assessment!

The Physio Crew,
0333 567 0663