Still Icing Sore Muscles?

In recent years, exercise scientists have started throwing cold water on the supposed benefits of icing. In a 2011 study, for example, people who iced a torn calf muscle felt just as much leg pain later as those who left their sore leg alone, and they were unable to return to work or other activities any sooner. Similarly, a 2012 scientific review concluded that athletes who iced sore muscles after strenuous exercise — or, for the masochistically minded, immersed themselves in ice baths — regained muscular strength and power more slowly than their unchilled teammates. And a sobering 2015 study of weight training found that men who regularly applied ice packs after workouts developed less muscular strength, size and endurance than those who recovered without ice.

But little has been known about how icing really affects sore, damaged muscles at a microscopic level. What happens deep within those tissues when we ice them, and how do any molecular changes there affect and possibly impede the muscles’ recovery?

The upshot of this data is that “in our experimental situation, icing retards healthy inflammatory responses,” says Takamitsu Arakawa, a professor of medicine at Kobe University Graduate School of Health Sciences, who oversaw the new study.

But, as Dr. Arakawa points out, their experimental model simulates serious muscle damage, such as a strain or tear, and not simple soreness or fatigue. The study also, obviously, involved mice, which are not people, even if our muscles share a similar makeup.

— for complete article “Ice for Sore Muscles? Think Again.” go to

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