The use of ice in healing injuries, or cryotherapy, has been fundamental for athletes including professional football and ruby players, and recently long distance endurance runners.
Swelling and Injuries
When you are injured, you usually stretch or tear muscle tissue due to overexertion of some sort. When this happens, you essentially start bleeding causing inflammation or swelling at the injured location.
Although swelling is the first part of the healing process, our body sometimes produces more than is necessary, increasing the time it takes to heal the injured area. Your body will not move on to “step two” of the healing process until most of the swelling is gone.
Ice and Swelling
When you apply ice to the injured area, you constrict blood vessels and essentially squeeze out “waste” from the injured area and limit the amount of swelling that can occur.
Once the muscle begin to warm up after the use of ice, new blood flows into the injured area and helps repair the damaged tissues.
Proper Use of Ice
There has been a consensus among scientists that applying ice to an injured area for longer than 10 minutes may create a rebound effect, called the Hunting Response of Lewis. The rebound effect will cause an increase in swelling and blood flow because the temperature of the area is so low for so long.
When utilizing ice bath recovery for running injuries, you may have to work your way up to this 10 minute limit, but try not to go beyond.
Why Ice Baths?
For runners, if you are icing a specific area or injury it make sense to use a ice pack of some sort. However, whether you realize it or not, running long distances “injures” your entire lower body. This is normal for muscle development so don’t worry.
This is why ice bath recovery make sense. Since you are utilizing all the muscles throughout your legs, which are all working hard causing small micro-tears. By using the ice bath, you can hit all of these spots at once!
And for most of you, you will not have a problem with over-icing since you’ll probably want to get out ASAP.
Have you ever used an ice bath before? Have they worked for you? Have any tips? Comment below!