Applying ice to a sore muscle after a hard workout or to an area of injury is a classic approach. Quite often it is mistakenly thought that it helps recovery. But it doesn’t.
The Sports Physiology Laboratory points out in its research that even painful sensations are dulled only for as long as the cooling properties of ice are active. However, ice should not be held near tissues for more than 15 minutes, after which the ice should be removed for the same amount of time.
But as soon as the exposure to the cold disappears, the nerve endings send signals of pain sensations again. And they do not become any less pronounced than when the ice was not used. In other words, cryotherapy only reduces the pain sensation during the use of the ice.
Regarding the recovery of damaged muscles, ligaments and other tissues after an injury or training, the process is delayed because the cold does not promote blood flow to the damaged areas.
For severe pain during an injury or to reduce swelling, an ice bath or ice pack can be used successfully as a temporary measure. But when only minor soreness is involved, simple rest is the best remedy.
It’s also helpful to improve blood circulation by massaging sore muscles.