Icing sore muscles

By Mina Radman • Published: April 12th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you’re trying to shed a few of those extra pounds that have accumulated around your middle, then you’ve probably headed over to the gym recently, stepped on the treadmill and worked out a little too enthusiastically. Suddenly, your abs are aching and your knees are about to buckle … but you still want to finish your workout.

Ice is commonly used to relieve pain in aching muscles because it causes the blood vessels to constrict. This slows down activity and allows your body time to recover. But wait before you put an ice pack on those aching muscles mid-workout. Researchers at the University of Ulster and the University of Limerick in Ireland found that icing sore muscles may not actually help you recover and get back in the game.

The researchers reviewed about three dozen studies that examined how ice affects sore muscles. According to the researchers, there’s not much scientific evidence to show that icing sore muscles can speed healing … but it is effective in numbing soreness.

In fact, the scientists say that icing sore muscles reduces muscle power and strength. For people like athletes, who quickly ice muscles before resuming physical activity, there may be a greater chance of injury afterward because your body can’t signal the beginning of serious pain. Athletes who returned to play immediately after icing also showed poorer athletic performance.

However, the negative effects of icing only last about 15 minutes and are less severe depending on how long you keep the ice on muscles.

Those who do ice sore muscles at the very end of a long workout should continue. There’s nothing wrong with simply wanting to numb the pain. And ice is an effective —and cheap — way to keep the aches and pains of a grueling workout at bay.