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Benefits & Side Effects of Ice Bath

Ice bath is becoming quite popular these days, especially in sports and wellness field and is also used for its various other benefits. However, there are also some side effects of ice baths that must be known. In this article we will talk about some of the benefits and side effects of ice bath.

Research On The Ice Bath Benefits And Side Effects:

It is quite common to see sportsmen and fitness enthusiasts jumping into an ice bath soon after their exercise or physical activity. Ice bath is a kind of cold therapy or cryotherapy that is practiced by taking a 15 minutes of dip in extremely cold water, i.e. around 50 degrees to 59 degrees F, after any intense session of exercise or after any sports. This is believed to help in reducing muscle soreness and muscle pain.

This practice of ice baths for relieving sore muscles has been into existence since many years. However, a study of the year 2017 might throw a wrench in this belief.(1)

This study suggests that the previous ideas about the benefits of ice baths for athletes is flawed, and also there is no benefit in reducing sore muscles.

However, experts in the field of cold therapy or cryotherapy still believe that using ice baths for getting relief from pain and muscle soreness after physical activity is beneficial. It is said by experts that this study does not prove 100% that there are no benefits of ice bath and there are several limitations of the study.

One of the most important limitations of this 2017 study on effectiveness of ice bath is the sample size and the age of the participants. This study consist only 9 young men in between their age of 19 to 24 years, who were performing resistance training for 2-3 days in a week. It is important to have more research and larger studies on this matter.

Benefits of Ice Bath

Benefits of Ice Bath:

There are some significant benefits of ice bath, especially for those who work out frequently or the competitive athletes.

Ice Bath Helps To Ease Sore and Aching Muscles:

The most important benefit of ice bath is most likely that it helps in relieving sore, burning and painful muscles, especially after intense workout.

It Limits Inflammatory Response:

Another benefit of ice bath is that it limits the inflammatory response and also helps you to recover quickly. This is because of the lower temperature during ice bath after exercise.

It Reduces The Effect Of Heat And Humidity:

Ice bath might also reduce the effect of heat and humidity. You can take an ice bath before a long race in conditions where there is an increase in the humidity and temperature. This can lower the core body temperature to a few degrees which in turn can result in an improved performance.

It Trains Your Vagus Nerve:

Ice bath can help you in training your vagus nerve. This nerve is pretty much linked with the parasympathetic nervous system, and when we train the vagus nerve, it can actually adequately help us face stressful situation

Ice Bath Helps The Central Nervous System:

Ice bath can even help our central nervous system by helping in sleep, and by consequently making you feel better and making you feel less tired and fatigued. Moreover, ice bath can even help in improving reaction time and explosiveness in your future physical activities or workouts.

Ice Bath Boost Up Immune System and Improves Blood Circulation:

Ice bath can boost up the immune system and it can improve the circulation of blood. When cold water touches our body, it gets the blood circulating well, which makes our arteries much more efficient in the pumping of blood and this in turn benefits the overall health of the heart. This can also help in lowering blood pressure and offer a boost in the functioning of immune system.

It Boosts Mental Alertness:

Ice bath though, might not seem like a soothing option for our mind, it actually aids increase the oxygen intake and helps in offering you a natural boost of energy all throughout the day. With the boost in energy we remain mentally alert all the day.

It Improves The Look Of Skin And Hair:

Do you want to have a radiant skin and beautiful hair? If yes, then ice bath can actually do the trick. Cold water helps you in tightening the skin pores and also the pores in your scalp, which in turn helps to prevent them from getting clogged. This makes the skin look beautiful and healthy and also your hair starts looking shinier.

Side Effects of Ice Bath:

One of the most noticeable and common side effects of ice bath is feeling extremely cold when you are immersing your body in the ice cold water. There are some more risks or side effects associated with ice bath. Let us take a look at them

Risk Of Hypothermia:

Hypothermia could be one of the side effects or risk of ice bath. This is more risky if you are submerged in the ice for a longer period of time. Those who are suffering from type 1 and type 2 diabetes, must also be careful while doing ice baths, as they are associated with a reduced ability of maintaining core body temperature during an extreme change in the temperature.(2)

Risk For Patients With Cardiovascular Diseases:

There is a risk of ice bath for the patients suffering from preexisting cardiovascular conditions or diseases, or those with high blood pressure.

In ice bath or cold therapy there is a reduction in the core temperature and ice immersion constricts the blood vessels and reduces the blood flow in the body. This can actually be dangerous if you have decreased flow of blood and you can be at a risk of getting heart stroke or a cardiac arrest.

Take Away:

Above we talked about some of the benefits as well as side effects of Ice bath. If you are willing to try this kind of cold therapy, you need to first consult with your healthcare provider and then go for it, so as to keep away from any kind of complication or side effects.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 4, 2020

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