Cryotherapy or ice treatment is one of the best ways you can help to not only assist your body to recover after an injury, but it is also one of the best ways to prevent injuries. Understanding when to use ice can be one of the most effective things you can do in order to grow stronger and train into your later years.
I know we all have short-term goals. Many of us want to put 5 pounds on our bench – or perhaps you just want to lose 5 pounds before your next family party. These are goals I can respect, but it is also important to think about what you will do after you achieve this goal.
Will your body be in the right shape in order to move forward and continue strength training?
Ice is a tool that can be used for anyone who is training for any goal. Powerlifters, runners, CrossFit athletes – we can all benefit from understanding when to use ice.
In this edition of buffscrolls.com, we are going to break down everything you need to know about when to use ice.
What is Ice Used For?
If you’ve ever watched a professional athlete competing at a high level you will notice that almost all of them will wrap ice on their knees, hips, ankles and many other body parts following the competition. Some of them even submerge their entire body in a cold ice bath.
Emerging your entire body into ice may seem a bit crazy but athletes use ice for a very good reason.
Ice is a type of therapy (cryotherapy) that helps to limit inflammation, limit injury, decrease recovery time and can even help to boost metabolism.
Ice is used for two main reasons:
1. Reducing Blood Flow
This can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or a tendon.
2. Temporarily Reduce Nerve Activity
This can relieve pain and help to decrease recovery time.
Why is Using Ice Necessary?
For many people, using ice can be quite painful and, for lack of a better word, freezing. With that said you must consider that the temporary pain you feel during an ice treatment will provide you with long-term relief of pain down the road.
Using ice is necessary to help your body limit inflammation – inflation that could ultimately lead to injury and a lack of training.
I always like to think of ice as a preventative treatment method. Yes, ice can be a great way to help bring down the inflammation of your ankle after a bad sprain, but it is also a great way to ensure that after every practice or game you are allowing your muscles and tendons to relax and return back to a normal state.
When To Use Ice
Ice is one of the easiest modalities to use. Nearly anyone can go into their freezer and grab an ice pack. I’d be willing to bet that many of you have a large bathtub in your house as well. If this is the case I would go as far as saying that you can be using ice to limit inflammation and prevent injuries after every exhaustive training session.
Most beneficial times to use ice:
1. After a Workout
Limiting inflammation directly after a workout is essential. If you are training at a high intensity with high repetitions or high resistance, icing your joints – especially those in motion during your workout will help to prevent injury.
2. On Deloading Weeks
Assuming you follow a structured workout program, you should have a week every 3-4 weeks that involves deloading.
That is, reducing the amount of resistance you have in your workout without making your workouts super easy.
During this week you should spend at least 1 hour per night icing all the trigger areas in your body – generally, the knees, ankles and hips will take the most stress during weightlifting or running.
3. After Competition
You see it on TV all the time. Athletes walking around with ice on all their joints after a game. Pro athletes lead by example and they generally have a very smart physio helping them along the way. Take note and start icing your body after every game. It will help to drastically increase your performance.
Best Way to Ice: How To Do It
It’s probably not the best idea to just sit in a cold bathtub for hours on end, just like its probably ineffective to put a wimpy ice pack on your knee for 2 minutes.
When it comes to icing for recovery and reduction in injuries you should always consider that there is a happy medium of time.
10 Minutes on, 20 minutes off
This is the easiest way to ensure you do not have the ice on for too long (which can be harmful) or not long enough – which won’t do very much for you.
This method of 10 on, 20 off can be repeated for a series of hours – depending on how much time you have to recover. If you have an injury (like an ankle sprain) you might be sitting at home doing very little anyway. Spend your time cycling ice on and off with compression. This will help to drastically reduce inflammation and decrease recovery time.
For those of you that are merely trying to understand when to use ice – the simple answer is always.
– after a workout
– after a game
– anytime you feel more sore than normal
– anytime you want to help your body recover faster
Bottom Line: Ice To Reduce Inflammation
When we talk about ice, the most important aspect to remember is that it will not be harmful as long as you take your time and cycle it on and off.
Things not to do while icing:
– do not stretch
– do not try to walk on a frozen body
– try not to cycle directly into heat
Remember, ice is preventative. If you are constantly entering injury territory or you feel like you are in a perpetual state of soreness – it could be your workout program.
Ensuring that your training is progressive and allows for adequate amounts of rest and recovery is essential to your long-term success.