A cold bath against muscle soreness

cold bath against muscle soreness

Plunging into cold water after exertion decreases aches.

The body aches are caused by micro-traumas to the muscular fibers after a sports training. A normal phenomenon but can be problematic by preventing the athlete from quickly resuming his training at full capacity.

Many people are struggling to endure these pains sometimes even to the point of not doing sports anymore. This is not advisable because with the workout your muscle fibers strengthen and the aches decrease over time, sometimes going as far as disappearing. Meanwhile, researchers have validated a method which has been used for a few years by high-level athletes to reduce body aches: cold baths.

Researchers from the Cochrane group reviewed all studies on the use of cold baths to prevent aches, compared to rest. After analyzing 19 studies they conclude that cold baths are effective in solving this problem. But be careful, cold baths must be at a temperature of 15 degrees maximum and last at least 15 minutes. On the other hand, researchers indicate that the efficiency of cold baths is not demonstrated in comparison with active recovery methods (return to sports quickly with light training to accelerate the disappearing of the pain) for which new studies are needed but the cold baths have the advantage of saving time and being simple to set up.

How do cold baths reduce body aches? The micro-traumas to the muscular fibers that are causing the body aches are responsible for calcium leakage within the fibers. This phenomenon is toxic and triggers a delayed inflammatory reaction, hence the onset of aches 24 to 48 hours later. The sensitivity of muscle fibers to calcium depends on the temperature: it increases when it’s hot and decreases when it’s cold. By dipping into an icy bath after effort, the toxicity of calcium is reduced and thus the release of the inflammatory substances causing the pain. But the anti-inflammatory effect of the cold is in fact known for a long time: this is why ice pockets are applied to certain wounds.


Bleakley C., McDonough S., Gardner E., Baxter G. David, J. Ty Hopkins, and Gareth W Davison. Cold-water immersion (cryotherapy) for preventing and treating muscle soreness after exercise. The Cochrane Library, Feb 2012.


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