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What's the Deal With: Ice Baths and Injuries

What's the Deal With: Ice Baths and Injuries

It's a known fact that immediately after an injury, whether it be from hammering your thumb instead of a nail, or heading the soccer ball with your nose, ice is the answer. An ice pack or frozen bag or peas applied to the area helps reduce pain and swelling, but have you ever heard of an ice bath? Sounds chillingly unbearable if you ask me, but if you're into long-distance running or training for a marathon, it may be just the thing you need to prevent injury that could result in time off.

According to Runner's World, ice baths are a method of cryotherapy or "cold therapy." After long runs, a soak in ice water constricts blood cells and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and prevents the breakdown of tissues. After you come out of the freezing water, the tissues begin to warm up and your blood flows faster. This helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. So not only does a soak in an ice bath help prevent inflammation, but it also flushes harmful metabolic debris out of the muscles.

Many athletes swear by these post-workout ice baths. Dotting your body with ice packs is an option, but full-on immersion in ice water is much more effective. You only need to be in the chilliness for 10 to 20 minutes to prevent injury. I was wondering if any of you have ever used ice baths. If not, would you ever consider it, or does it seem too intolerable to bear?


sldc sldc 9 years
Hell no. For me, no pain or soreness would warrant the torture of cold water. I intensely hate cold water and being cold in general.
lizkiernan lizkiernan 9 years
It's worth it. And if you want to distract yourself from the cold, put on some music you can sing to and make yourself a hot cup of tea beforehand.
sgrbby32 sgrbby32 9 years
I swear by the ice bath method. It absolutely works. I once pushed myself entirely too much during a spin class workout. I couldn't move nor bend my legs enough to get into bed. My hubby, a strength coach, seriously advised me to come to their training room and soak in an ice bath to rid myself of the pain. 42 degrees and 20 minutes later, the same evening, I felt 100% better. It was a miracle. It's definitely worth the freezing and suffering.
g1amourpuss g1amourpuss 9 years
OMYGOD, did you girls see that bathtub!?!?!?!? (forget the ICE. I'll take that tub with hooooot water, some aromatherapy oils, and Bubbbbbles!)
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
I definitely wish i could have tried these when I actually was a competitive (distance) runner. I don't even really have to ice much now because I don't think it's necessary to do anything that puts my body through too much stress/pain if I'm not an athlete, I think it's possible to stay in good shape without resorting to this! For the average person anyway!
Allytta Allytta 9 years
gaelgirl, 10 degress celsius. not fahrenheit.
gaelgirl gaelgirl 9 years
actually, this isn't very right. in fact, it can make it worse. do a bit more research & you'll find up to date info will tell you this can actually cause swelling. all you need is 10 degrees cooler (or warmer) to get a reflex affect. there is no need to suffer through this. i know. this was on my medical board exam.
SassAndBide SassAndBide 9 years
yeah i dunno i had an injury from dance a few years ago and didn't do this. "so i might just have to live with strapping ice packs to my body instead." LOL same here.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
i know that a lot of athletes swear by this and if you watch any number of sports related movies you'll see that they swear by it but for myself - i don't know if i could bear sitting in a bath of ice for even 10 seconds. i can really appreciate the benefits of it, but i'm not good with extreme cold, so i might just have to live with strapping ice packs to my body instead.
Leilanic1 Leilanic1 9 years
i just did the avon walk for breast cancer which is a 40 mile walk. my feet swelled up to be a whole size and a half bigger than normal. i iced my feet and the swelling and pain got better. it hurt like crap though!
soapbox soapbox 9 years
I'm too chicken to take cold baths, so I do a very brief cold shower after running. It works just fine for me.
foxie foxie 9 years
Hellllll no!
hippiecowgirl hippiecowgirl 9 years
Just the thought of that makes me shiver!
Lavinie Lavinie 9 years
brrrr... i'm cold just reading about it.....i'll pass
Allytta Allytta 9 years
you don't actually need ice for this, as someone mentioned it should be only 45-50 degrees, it's just your normal cold tap water.
psterling psterling 9 years
Sounds torturous. I'm sure its great for you but I totally don't have that kind of will power. Probably also why I'm not a marathon runner, lol.
Allytta Allytta 9 years
i find training for the marathon unbearable as for now :) but if i ever decide, than ice baths are fine with me. i actually have no problem socking in ice water below my belly button, but up - is a nono so far...
Melo-D Melo-D 9 years
Never been in an ice bath but I've made plenty. Gotta love being a manager! I do miss those days.
xtinabeena xtinabeena 9 years
i'm not sure, but i'd guess closer to the 20lb bag... it depends on how much water you have.... it takes a lot more than you'd think though.
capttony capttony 9 years
I agree, it does sound terrible...but maybe worth a I would ask, how much ice are we talking about? Do I need to buy a 20 lbs bag for my tub? Or just empty the ice bucket in my freezer?
Renee3327 Renee3327 9 years
We used to use these running track in high school when rehabbing injuries and they worked well but were BRUTAL. You kind of get used to it after awhile but it's a pretty extreme treatment, not something I would recommend for a casual runner.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
No way, couldn't do it. I just hate being cold. I can deal with ice packs for specific areas, but there's no way I could make myself do this.
xtinabeena xtinabeena 9 years
as a college track athlete, i used to ice bath nearly every day after practice; it helps a lot with nagging pains and strains. but actually, i found that it made my shin splints WORSE (they always got better on xmas and spring and summer breaks when i wouldn't have access to my team's ice bath every day.) so now i just ice bath when my quad/hamstring/hip/knee/lower back or whatever really needs it because my shins can't handle it every day. but the first few times ice bathing after not having done it for a while are SO PAINFUL. also, be careful not to make it too cold; i believe the trainers at my school keep the ice bath between 45 and 50 degrees. below 40 is dangerous though. and just a tip, only the first 2 minutes hurt. and don't do the in and out thing. get in, suck it up for 2 minutes of pain, and you get used to it and numb and it'll be fine. and stay in for 10-15 min. p.s. i'm not saying that you shouldn't ice shin splints; EVERYONE else i know with chronic shin pain swears by icing. i just found it wasn't the best for me.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
I guess that would depend on how long the run was... I know I was pretty miserable for 4-5 days after my 1/2 marathon. Maybe an ice bath wouldn't have been out of the question then. For a day to day workout, though, I don't friggin' think so.
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