Science > How Cold Plunging Relieves Muscle Soreness

How Cold Plunging Relieves Muscle Soreness

Last Updated Jan 13, 2024

If you’re anything like me, you get extremely sore after a workout. Unfortunately, the older I get, the more my muscle soreness persists. I’ve found that one thing that really helps is ice baths. In this article, we’re going to discuss the science behind why cold plunging is so effective at treating muscle soreness and lactic acid.

Jump to: Conclusion

The Science Behind Muscle Soreness

To understand how cold plunging can alleviate muscle soreness, it’s important first to understand what causes soreness in the first place. When you exercise, your muscles undergo microscopic tears and damage. This damage triggers an inflammatory response in the body, which can lead to soreness, stiffness, and even swelling.

How Cold Plunging Can Help

One of the key ways that cold plunging may help alleviate muscle soreness is by reducing inflammation. Cold exposure has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which can help alleviate pain and promote healing. In fact, one study found that immersion in cold water after exercise reduced muscle soreness by up to 20%.

Cold plunging may also help improve circulation and blood flow, further aiding muscle recovery. Immersion in cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, which can improve blood flow and circulation throughout the body. This increased circulation can help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, promoting healing and reducing soreness.

Additionally, cold plunging may help reduce the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, which can contribute to soreness and fatigue. Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism, which occurs when the body works hard and uses oxygen faster than it can be replenished. When lactic acid builds up in the muscles, it can cause a burning sensation and contribute to soreness.

When should I cold plunge after a workout?

It may be tempting to jump in the cold water right after a workout when endorphins are high. However, avoiding cold plunging immediately after intense exercise is extremely important, as this can cause further damage to already inflamed muscles. Instead, wait a few hours or even a day after exercise before taking a cold plunge.

Conclusion

Muscle soreness can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience, but cold plunging may offer a safe and effective way to alleviate it. By reducing inflammation, improving circulation, and reducing the buildup of lactic acid, cold plunging can help promote muscle recovery and reduce soreness. So jump in that icy cold water and add cold plunging to your muscle recovery arsenal.

References:

  1. Bleakley, C., McDonough, S., & MacAuley, D. (2012). The use of ice in the treatment of acute soft-tissue injury: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(3), 638-646.
  2. Costello, J. T., Donnelly, A. E., & Karki, A. (2015). Effects of cold water immersion on knee joint position

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