View Full Version : Sore muscles

October 2nd, 2007, 08:28 AM
Hey everyone,

I was just wondering what the whole deal with ice baths is...I know some types of athletes--gymnasts for one will sit in bathtubs filled with ice and ice water after a workout, especially when they're getting back in shape--but what is the actual rationale?

I'm just curious because while we are building up our yardage and getting back into swimming shape I am feeling the burn because I am also speedskating 1-2 times a week, just started lifting again and I take a spinning class 2 times a week. In other words, at the moment, my body is really holding together pretty well, but I can definitely feel the difference in the water--I've slowed down considerably but I would imagine that is just a temporary set back because my body is busy repairing and re toning and re tuning.


Oh and completly off the subject of my question but there's a freshman on my team who is a very good swimmer, but she's working so hard and pushing herself to such a point of high stress on her body that I just feel for her, because she has bad shoulders and I completely understand that desire to really go out in practice and impress the new coach and teammates and stuff--I was exactly the same when I came to school or changed teams, but it's the 1st real week of practice--last 2 weeks have been under 3000yards all drill work and slow sets, and she's already icing 2x a day and has been since last week. I just hope she doesn't rip something because bottom line is sometimes when you do have shoulder issues you just need to back off a bit and concentrate more on form and legs instead of being the hero at practice, thats more or less why I have been so busy with extra curricular athletics because I know I can't go out there and swim meet pace every practice and still have shoulders to speak of.

October 2nd, 2007, 10:50 AM
Hey everyone,

I was just wondering what the whole deal with ice baths is...I know some types of athletes--gymnasts for one will sit in bathtubs filled with ice and ice water after a workout, especially when they're getting back in shape--but what is the actual rationale?

I tried to do some research on this myself recently and I couldn't come up with a whole lot scientific. (Perhaps someone else knows more than I do). What I did find seems to me to be more 'common sense logic' than hard scientific fact.

One theory holds that the cold water constricts the blood vessels thus forcing blood out of the submerged areas and in the process taking with it the lactic acid that has built up. When the body warms up again the blood vessels dilate and fresh blood rushes in bringing oxygen to the muscles and flushing out the remaining lactic acid.

12 - 15 degrees Celsius is good temperature and 10 minutes seems to be the consensus on the duration of the bath.

The pool that I swim at has a Spa attached to it which has several hot tubs and an ice pool too. One of the older men taught me how to use it. He got me to get into the hot tub for two minutes and then into the ice pool for 10 seconds. Then back into the hot tub again for another 2 minutes and back into the ice pool. The second time round wasn't nearly as much of a shock and the third was the easiest. I can manage about a minute in the ice pool now but my feet still hurt like hell. I have to plunge them immediately back into the hot tub or else it is too painful to walk.

I must admit the cold baths 'seem' to aid recovery but I can't be sure. It could be the combination of hot and cold. I always end off with the ice pool and then limp off to the shower. There is definitely a 'glowing sense of well-being and self-satisfaction' after the ice treatment. This could, in part, come from having overcome the urge to flee from what, no matter how many times you do it, always remains a torturous experience.

Recently an Australian study has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the ice bath method but its results seem to rely on the participants subjective perception of pain and, therefore, in my mind, is no more scientific than the practice it is trying to question. Here is the link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/11/nbath111.xml


October 2nd, 2007, 12:41 PM
Thanks Syd, that seems like some pretty valid research and thanks for sharing your own experience with them. I wish I knew of a facility that had actual ice pool/ baths, because what I think I would have to do is create one in my shower/bathtub--but then I would not have the access to the hot water, at least not on an on/ off/ on kind of program.

I know that at meets after a race we're suppose to go take a quick cold shower then a short warm burst and then another short burst, to get the lactic out...so I don't see why it wouldnt be a good idea when your overall sore and hurtin

October 2nd, 2007, 02:04 PM
Hot, cold, hot, cold, hot cold, the treatment for athletic injury for years.

October 2nd, 2007, 02:14 PM
I was told to ice my shoulders after swimming. The sports doctor thought my shoulders looked prone to inflammation, and pointed out that they showed signs of chronic inflammation already (calcification). He was the head sports doctor for the teams here at the Univ, very well respected, and seemed to know something about swimmers.

October 2nd, 2007, 02:22 PM
I have seen the just ice thing too often. It is the slow way. The footbalers use hot, cold, applications immediatley on Charlie Horses. It eliminates a lot of bruising, swelling and pain.

October 2nd, 2007, 04:40 PM
yeah I realized after i posted that the OP was referring to specifically to muscle treatment not joint inflammation treatment.

October 2nd, 2007, 05:10 PM
Hot, cold, hot, cold, hot cold, the treatment for athletic injury for years.

This may have been what people did, but this is not always true because it depends on the injury. For an ankle sprain/break, the hot/cold is terrific because it promotes circulation. For shoulder injuries, it's ice, never heat, because ice reduces swelling. Heat is more used for soft tissue problems; joints need ice, sprains need both.

I do want to mention something here about jacuzzis and hot tubs/spas. A good friend of mine is a doctor here in Texas and she is against these things if a person has been in cooler water. The temperature change causes a tremendous rise in blood pressure very quickly, so if a person already has blood pressure elevations, it could be harmful.

Personally, I'm an ice kind of person. My shoulder gets sore every week or so, and a little ice eliminates the soreness. Love those bags of frozen vegetables!

October 2nd, 2007, 06:32 PM
Island - I am sorry it is ice and warmth, not super hot, hot. It is the fluctuation in temperature that causes circulation. Not just the ice. The cold makes the blood move from the surface and the warmth brings it back to the surface.

I have high blood pressure and really enjoy the hot tubes but I limit my stay to 5 min sequences. It is at 104 degrees f. I also have my hot tub as a warm up before I swim.

October 3rd, 2007, 10:21 AM
At least one study suggested a 2-3 minute hot shower followed by 30-60 seconds cold shower. And the hot/cold protocol worked for a rugby team. George P is right on again! --mjm

See the complete article here:

October 3rd, 2007, 12:14 PM
I had discussed treatment of the hot and cold applications with the trainer of the Hamilton TiCats football team. He told me the best way was to use ice in a freezer bag and gently rub over the area, not applying pressure for about 3 minutes, then apply a hot compress about 104 degrees (I use a hand towel and run it under hot tap water) for 3 minutes then the ice again and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Old fashioned maybe, - successful yes.

However the football team is not very successful this year.