If you’re a sports fan and have some practical experience behind your back or know athletes who regularly train and work on their bodies – you’ve probably heard of ice baths. Although there are different methods available to help the muscles heal and recover faster, ice baths have been known for centuries as the most effective. There are certain situations when they are recommended while in others you should avoid them.
So if you’ve been asking yourself questions about this type of treatment, we’re here to offer all the answers. In this article, we’ll look at what an ice bath is, where it came from, all the benefits associated with it, and additional facts you should know. After you’ve finished reading you should be able to make an informed decision whether jumping in a bathtub filled with ice after working out is a good option for you. Alternatively, you could always choose the easier option of using a cooling ice towel that can do the same trick.
Let’s start, there’s a lot we’d like to share!
What are ice baths?
You may have come across ice baths as water immersion or cryotherapy. Although calling it simply an ice bath is the most common form you’ll find it in, cryotherapy is the official word for putting your body in cold water with rehabilitation or healing purposes. The concept behind this form of treatment is closely related to the idea that microtrauma occurs after intense workouts. In other words, your muscles suffer from tiny tears, which is actually among the main goals of exercising.
By partially tearing the muscle on a micro level, it is encouraged to boost its cell activity in order to repair the harm and offer more strength and stability for the muscles. However, this process is accompanied by pain and soreness after heavy exercising. Thankfully, the muscle bath was discovered as a way to help soothe and eliminate the pain.
Where did ice baths come from?
In history, cold water was used actively as a boost for mental, physical, and spiritual health. Today, scientists have dedicated time researching the topic and there is evidence behind this phenomenon. One of the oldest medical texts discovered was created by Edwin Smith and is called the Surgical Papyrus. It dates back to 1600B.C. but touches upon the question of the use of cold water as therapy. The first person who is believed to have introduced cold water baths into the world was Hippocrates, the Greek physician and one of medicine’s most respected figures.
Ice baths were later used in Ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. But what are the benefits of this type of treatment and why is it so popular among athletes today? We can find the answer to this question by exploring all the benefits of ice baths in more detail.
Ice baths for recovery: All the benefits
Jumping inside a freezing-cold bathtub with ice water is certainly not easy, especially if it is your first time. It is definitely not among the most pleasant things and can literally stop your breath. So if you’re thinking about going through it, you may want to know all the ways your body will benefit as a result. Especially if you regularly work out or participate in intense sports, there is a lot that you can expect from this type of treatment.
Relieves muscle pain and soreness
Experiencing muscle tension, pain, and body soreness are inevitable if you regularly hit the gym or are an athlete. Even when your muscles have become accustomed to your routine, slightly changing your workout, adding something new, or extending your exercising time can result in severe muscle pain. Cold water or a cold towel after exercising can significantly ease sore and burning muscles by taking away the heat. This is also a great way to stay away from inflammation and other dangerous processes requiring higher temperatures.
Lowers the chance of inflammation
We partially touched upon this advantage of ice baths in the previous point but it deserves its own explanation as it is of great importance. After exercising, the body maintains a higher temperature and the muscles are burning hot as a result of the effort they’ve exerted while working out. Stretching and cooling down gradually does help lower the impact of the exercise but is not always enough to calm down the body and muscles. An ice bath can help by lowering the amount of inflammation in the body and helping it cool down and recover faster.
Gives your central nervous system a boost
Ice baths also have a positive influence on the nervous system by calming it down and helping it to perform better. Cooling down your body using cold water can help you improve your sleeping routine. In addition, it can help you regenerate faster and therefore feel less fatigue, even if you are training more than before.
Helps you fight the heat
If you’re part of a professional sports team of just regularly participate in outdoor sports, you’ve probably noticed that the weather conditions do affect your performance. When the weather is hot and the climate is humid, you are likely to tire quickly and feel your body unable to perform at its best. Cooling down your body with an ice bath or ice towel can help in this situation too.
Applying a cold towel or jumping inside cold water before a running marathon or another game can significantly lower the temperature of your body and result in better performance.
A stronger vagus nerve
The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve found in the body. It starts from the brain stem and runs all the way to a part of the colon. This nerve has the duty of regulating the functions of the internal organs responsible for digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate. It is also important for vasomotor activity and reflex functions such as sneezing, swallowing, coughing, and more. One of the greatest advantages of ice baths is that it is able to train the vagus nerve and support it with strength. As a result, the body is able to cope with stressful situations easier and more adequately.
How to get the most out of an ice bath
When preparing for an ice bath, it is important to remember a few important factors. Fill your bathtub with cold water so that it covers your legs and waist. The key goal is to get the temperature to reach levels between 40 and 50 degrees. You can stay in the water for up to 15 minutes but it is not advisable to overdo it. After the second minute, you will feel your body becoming numb and you will be able to manage the discomfort easier.
It is also advisable to keep the top part of your body protected and warm. You could do this by wearing a sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt. You will also find it more comfortable to keep your toes warm.
When your 15 minutes are up you may be tempted to immediately take a hot shower to warm up your body. However, this is not always a great idea. Let your body warm-up on its own rather than shocking it by exposing it to hot water.
Try the benefits of an ice towel
Similarly to the ice bath, the ice towel can provide a world of benefits for injuries or faster recovery. It can also simply keep you cool and comfortable while jogging or exercising. Our cooling ice towel has been designed with portability in mind and is therefore easy to carry and extra light. It will absorb sweat and will cool down the body at the same time. You can use it for any age groups and rely on its anti-bacterial and zero-chemical makeup.
Keeping your body cool and helping it function at its best during workouts and post-exercise is essential. Whether you do this via an ice bath or by using an ice towel is up to you. The bottom line is the same – the body will be supported and stabilized to perform at its best when you most need it. We hope that this article will provide enough information for you to make the best choice for your personal preferences and lifestyle.