Should you ice sore muscles? A new study shows it may not be such a cool idea

·1-min read
Photo credit: Jan-Otto - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jan-Otto - Getty Images
  • Icing may alter the molecular environment inside sore muscles, delaying healing

  • Other studies have shown that icing can also stunt muscular power and endurance

The ice bath has become a rite of passage for runners the world over. But a new study suggests that this form of DOMS-defying therapy may not be such a brrr-illiant idea, after all.

The study, carried out by researchers at Kobe University in Japan and published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, found that icing alters the molecular environment inside injured muscles in detrimental ways, thus slowing down the healing process.

The study involved mice, not people, but serves as further evidence that those purporting the benefits of sub-zero therapy are on thin ice.

Take a 2012 scientific review that found athletes who iced sore muscles after vigorous exercises actually regained muscular power more slowly than those who did not. More recently, in 2015, a study of weight training yielded similar results: participants who applied ice packs after workouts developed less muscular size, strength and endurance than their unchilled counterparts.

More research into this area is required before any strong conclusions can be made. But on the weight of evidence so far, it seems like it might be best to leave the sub-zero treatment on ice – and let injured or sore muscles repair themselves.

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