Does cold baths after exercise help reduce muscle soreness? A research perspective.
Exercise at different intensity levels can result in varying degrees of muscle fatigue and micro trauma. The muscle ache that is commonly felt 1-2 days after training is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The characteristics of DOMS are muscle shortening, swelling, decrease in strength and power, and localised soreness. Cold baths are often discussed as a method to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness after sports and exercise.
How does it potentially work?
- Reduce inflammation
- Constricts blood vessels
- Reduces pain by decreasing nerve transmission speed and threshold therefore
- Psychological perception of reduction in fatigue post exercise
So does it actually it work?
In short, Yes! Research shows that people who had a cold bath after exercise reported a reduction in muscle soreness at 24, 48 and 96 hours compared to those that didn’t.
Other interesting findings
- Performance in power and joint mobility is better at 24hrs for people who do cold baths
- There is no difference in swelling, inflammation and muscle damage when measured at 24 & 48 hours after exercise when comparing to people that had cold baths and for those that did not.