In sports therapy and recovery, ice baths are becoming more and more popular, but this success has also given rise to some myths and raised many concerns about its efficacy and potential risks. What is the science behind ice baths, and what is the reality behind them?
We'll cover all there is to know about ice baths in this article so you have all the information you need to decide if it's suitable for you.
What Is An Ice Bath?
An ice bath is a recovery practice in which a portion of the body is submerged in ice water for a brief period of time. While some advise 10 to 15 minutes, we recommend 2 to 10 minutes.
A cold water immersion, cold treatment, cold bath, or cold plunging are other names for an ice bath. Although ice baths are primarily used by athletes for sports therapy, non-athletes can also profit from them in addition to helping with bodily recovery. The part after this one has more information on these advantages.
The numerous advantages of ice showers are well known and can help almost anyone on their path to better health. Plunging is a fantastic addition to your general health and wellness regimen, benefiting both your mind and your muscles. Here are a few advantages you can anticipate:
Increase mental resilience
Recovery & Pain Relief
Reduce & prevent muscle soreness
Build physical resilience
Reduce chronic pain
Reduce eye puffiness
Erase fine link and wrinkles
Increase blood flow to create healthy glow
In all: reduce joint pain, lessen muscle soreness, boost mental and physical resilience, elevate mood, boost metabolism, increase energy and productivity, optimize digestion and reduce inflammation.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has conducted extensive research on cold immersion and ice baths, and their results highlight a number of benefits that have been supported by science.
According to one NLM research, athletes who took ice baths after working out had less muscle soreness and could practice for longer afterward. Additionally, two studies from different sources, one from 2016 and one from 2011, found that a 10-minute soak in cold water reduced soreness in bikers.
Another NLM research discovered that being exposed to cold water has a "immunostimulating effect," which essentially means that it boosts your immune system. Regular cold showers can strengthen one's immune system and reduce inflammation and anxiousness, according to numerous studies. After receiving hydrotherapy for several weeks, depression symptoms improved, according to a Science Direct research.
These are only a few of the studies we selected to emphasize; there are many more. We will continue to contribute to this research section as we uncover new, reliable sources of information that are pertinent to what we are learning.
Why Ice Baths?
There are a few things you should think about first before entering an ice plunge in order to get the most out of the experience.
Before cold plunging, speak with your doctor (especially if you're susceptible to cold or have other conditions).
- Take a cold shower to psychologically and physically get ready. This will assist you in managing your responses later by giving you a more detailed understanding of how your body will respond to the cold.
- Think about your capacity for chill. Starting at about 60°F and lowering the temperature later is acceptable. It's also acceptable to begin with 30 to 1 minute increments and increase to 2 to 10 minutes.
- We recommend 2 to 10 minutes but even starting at 1 or 2 minutes is okay when you begin to get yourself used to the ice bath routine.
How Do You Prepare?
Ice baths involve more than just dumping ice and water into your Tundra. To make sure your ice bath experience is as easy and pleasant as possible, you should prepare in advance. If this is your first time taking an ice treatment, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First make sure you have the right materials to prepare your ice bath:
For a DIY ice bath you’ll need a tub or container, a thermometer, bag (or two) of ice, and a hose if you’re using a stand alone tub without a faucet.
If you’re using our tub, the Tundra, you’ll just need your tub and a hose.
Learn a few breathing techniques for before, during, and after your ice bath sessions.
Prepare your post-plunge towel and clothes (i.e. long sleeve shirts, pants, and socks) close by.
Get your timer ready and within reach.
Change into your ice bath clothing. You should at least wear shorts and a t-shirt but some people choose to also wear a sweatshirt, booties, and gloves. It’s up to you.
Plan to get out of the ice bath slowly and some light movement to warm up.
How Do You Take One?
It's time to set up and take your ice bath after you've completed the preparation stages listed above.
1. To get the temperature you want, add ice to a tub of cold water.
After assembling your supplies and post-ice bath attire (see above), start filling your tub with cold water to the desired level, then gradually add ice until the temperature is acceptable. It's totally fine if you need to commence at 55–60°F and then gradually lower the temperature.
If you're using the Tundra, just fill your tub with the appropriate amount of water, set the temperature, and it will adjust itself automatically.
After you take the steps above to prepare, now it’s time to set up and take your ice bath.
2. Establish a timer and keep it nearby.
Even just a minute can be beneficial, so go ahead and start there if you must. At Tundra, we advise 2 to 5 minutes, though up to 10 minutes is acceptable.
3. Step inside the ice tub and press the timer.
Start your timer after a few minutes of pre-plunge breathing exercises, then gently enter your ice bath.
4. Saturate & Concentrate on Your Breathing and Thoughts
Focus on your respiration, something you can control, rather than how cold the water is. Practice some breathwork, such as complete in-breaths followed by a brief pause before exhaling, to increase your heart rate, circulation, and comfort. Additionally, it will divert your attention from the icy water.
5. Leave the Ice Bath and Walk Lightly to Warm Up
When the timer goes off, carefully exit the ice bath and pat yourself dry before saying, "You rock!" After that, change into your post-ice bath attire and think about warming up with some mild exercise like stretches or jumping jacks.
Safety Tips For Ice Bathing
Ice swimming is regarded as secure. Although there are potential risks, as with most things, there are also steps you can take to improve safety and reduce risk while the procedure is in progress. Here are some safety tips to help you enjoy your ice plunge as safely as possible.
1. Most significantly, before beginning an ice bath routine, speak with your primary care physician! They are the ones who know you and your health the best, and they can give you more specific advice based on your past.
2. Start at a temperature that is comfortable for you but not too chilly by taking into account your tolerance for cold. Later, you can gradually reduce the temperature to the 50° to 39°F region.
3. Start out with 30 seconds to 1 minute if that's what feels good for you as a beginner, and work your way up to 2 to 10 minutes.
4. During your ice bath, if you experience any unusual symptoms, such as lightheadedness, intense discomfort, excessive shivering, or other symptoms, get out slowly but without delay.
5. Outside your pool, place a non-slip mat.
6. Step slowly out of the cold bath.
7. Have someone with you outside the entrance or keep your phone close by if you are prone to falling or are just feeling uneasy.
Are There Potential Drawbacks?
There are some dangers associated with ice bathing, but they are generally small. You'll significantly lower potential risks if you keep in mind the safety advice and recommendations stated above. Potential negative aspects include:
When you spend too much time in frigid water, you can develop hypothermia or frostbite, but you'll almost certainly experience warning symptoms first. Only set your water temperature as low as you are comfortable with to prevent this; a decent range is between 39 and 60 °F. Keep sessions between 2 and 10 minutes long as well.
Ice-cold water can cause vertigo by constricting your blood vessels, which can make you feel lightheaded. This is yet another excellent reason to choose a relaxing water temperature and limit your submersion time to a few minutes per session. If you ever begin to feel lightheaded, get out of the cold bath immediately.
Alternatives to Ice Baths
Because ice baths have so many various advantages, people use them for a variety of different reasons. There are a few various ice bath alternatives to take into consideration, depending on the cause or desired benefit. The alternatives to ice baths are discussed below, along with some of their main similarities and variations.
A Cold Shower
The most accessible and comparable option to an ice bath is a cold shower because it offers the same advantages and doesn't require any specialized resources or equipment. To attempt to achieve the same advantages of cold water therapy for physical recovery, mental benefits, and an improved immune system, some people may choose a cold shower over a cold plunge, but a cold shower may take longer to take effect.
Why is an ice bath more beneficial than taking a chilly shower? First of all, while ice bath tubs like the Tundra can get as cold as 39°F, a cold shower's water temperature is usually around 55°F (dipping to 45°F in the winter). An ice bath lowers your body's core temperature faster than a cold shower, providing you with more immediate benefits. Cold plunging gives you colder water than you would receive in a shower and truly submerges your body in the water. Because cold showers don't get as cold and don't completely submerge you in the water, they fall short of providing you with all of the advantages of ice baths.
Cryotherapy entails exposing the entire body to extremely low temperatures for a brief period of time while seated in a booth. There are several types of cryotherapy, including full-body, targeted, medical, and non-medical. Cryotherapy and ice baths are undoubtedly linked because they both involve subjecting the body to extreme cold, but there are also some key distinctions between the two.
Cryotherapy is limited to specific locations with cryochambers (like a doctor's office or sports medicine room) and entails using extremely cold temperatures (as low as -230°F). It is primarily used for short-term recovery and injuries. Ice baths are more widely available, can be used over an extended period of time, and don't get as frigid (between 59°F and 39°F).
Cryotherapy is an excellent instrument for short-term physical recovery, but it doesn't offer much else. On the other hand, ice baths promote healing while also offering important advantages for physical, emotional, and general health. Because all you need for an ice bath is ice, a tub, a thermometer, and a water hose (or just a tub and water hose if you're using our Tundra), ice baths are also more practical, approachable, and handy for the average person. Overall, depending on your requirements, ice baths and cryotherapy can both be effective.
Cold therapy (like an ice bath) is usually done for 2 to 10 minutes and is most effective for acute injuries. It can reduce swelling and inflammation, numb sore tissues, and minimize tissue damage. On the body, cold treatment can be applied locally or regionally.
Heat treatment, on the other hand, can last anywhere from 15-20 minutes or even up to 30 minutes to an hour and is best used for relaxing the tense regions of the body, reducing stiffness, and relieving muscle pain. Both dry heat and moist heat techniques are used in heat treatment.
If you’re looking to utilize both the benefits of hot and cold therapy, consider contrast therapy which we talk about in the section below.
Hot and Cold Therapy / Contrast Therapy
By enhancing blood flow to the injured region and accelerating the healing process, hot and cold therapy, also known as contrast therapy, combines the advantages of cold therapy (such as an ice bath) and heat therapy. If you want to benefit from an ice bath while also using some warmth, this is a fantastic choice.
The combination of benefits and relief that hot and cold treatment can offer in some circumstances is better than what either therapy alone can offer. The most frequent uses of hot and cold therapy are to lessen muscle damage and loss of strength as well as to treat soft tissue discomfort and injuries brought on by swelling.
Other Ice Bath Alternatives
Depending on your specific recovery requirements, there are other options besides ice baths, such as warm water treatment, epsom salt baths, massages, electrical stimulation, ice packs, coolant sprays & topicals, and compression clothing.
Common Myths About Ice Baths
There are many false beliefs and falsehoods about ice baths in circulation. To give you the complete picture of ice baths, we're dispelling a few of these myths and misconceptions below.
MYTH: Cold baths are only for athletes
TRUTH: Ice baths are not only for sports; non-athletes can, should, and do take them.
In addition to bodily recovery, people may cold plunge for a variety of health benefits, such as:
Boost metabolism & immune system
Boost blood circulation long-term
Manage one’s mental health
MYTH: Taking an ice bath will make you cold or hypothermic.
TRUTH: Although there is no proof that ice showers cause hypothermia or colds, you should still abide by safety precautions.
There is no proof that taking ice showers or being around cold water will make you contagious. Like when your mother warned you, "Don't go outside with your hair wet or you'll acquire a cold," it's a myth.
If you abide by the safety procedures, you probably won't ever experience cold. You could readily predict the onset of hypothermia and leave as soon as it starts to happen.To avoid hypothermia, we recommend plunging for 2 to 5 minutes and starting at around 55 to 59°F if you’re new to plunging or have a low cold tolerance.
MYTH: I Don’t Have Time/I’m Too Busy To Take an Ice Bath
TRUTH: You can cold plunge for as little as 2 minutes, we recommend to 2 to 5 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Do ice baths work?
To learn more about how precisely ice baths benefit your general health and physical recovery, please study the studies and benefits sections above.
Why do athletes take ice baths?
It's crucial for players to develop a variety of performance-enhancing techniques as well as injury prevention strategies. Athletes may decide to use ice baths as one of their recovery tools because it minimizes inflammation, develops resilience, and reduces muscle soreness while maximizing muscle repair.
Are ice baths good for you?
Medical Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before starting an ice bath routine.