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FIVE BENEFITS OF A COLD BATH

What are the benefits of a cold bath? There’s likely more, but to keep things simple, I’ll list five ice bath benefits below, followed by a little more information on each of the ice bath benefits;

  1. Placebo Effect

  2. Analgesia

  3. Vasoconstriction

  4. Reduce Inflammation

  5. Transfer Of Temperature

PLACEBO EFFECT

As we’ve discussed, the benefits of ice baths may not entirely occur within the body itself but may be due to perception. Ice baths are what I call ‘mental warfare’. This mental warfare reduces over time, decreasing sensitivity to the cold pain sensation. People often report feeling ‘alive’ and ‘awake’ after ice baths. This is what may also help reduce our perception of DOMS and RPE.

ANALGESIA

This leads nicely to physiological pain-reducing benefits. The cold sensation can wake up our thermal nerve cells. However, it can also decrease nerve conduction speeds and excitability. This can actually cause reduced communication from our thermal nerve cells to the sympathetic nervous system resulting in reduced perceived pain.

VASOCONSTRICTION

Vasoconstriction is when the blood vessels (vaso) narrow (constrict). In the context of ice baths, this would occur due to the skin and blood vessels detection of cold sensation. The body does this to restrict blood flow and conserve its core temperature. This reduces blood flow to the muscles where we may have just created muscle damage and inflammatory responses.

REDUCED INFLAMMATION

It may very well be that a reduction in blood flow reduces swelling and white blood cell access to damaged muscles, resulting in reduced inflammation.

TRANSFER OF TEMPERATURE

A benefit of using ice baths or plunge pools versus something like a cold shower or cryotherapy is that the body is submerged and in direct contact with a cold liquid, which covers the body. The chances are that the blood vessels will respond better to a liquid that is in direct contact with the skin and can affect the skin's temperature.

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