What Do Ice Baths Help With
Do you have a cold? If not, you’re in luck — it isn’t contagious or even required to get sick! But we all know people who are always sniffling and sneezing, and they never seem to be quite right.
When the body experiences illness, chemicals called cytokines are released into the blood stream. These molecules travel through the bloodstream and trigger inflammation throughout the body by encouraging white blood cells to multiply. The more white blood cells you have, the more likely you’ll experience common symptoms like fever, headache, fatigue, weakness, muscle pain, and general discomfort.
If these symptoms persist beyond 48 hours without any relief, you may have something known as reactive arthritis. This condition is caused when bacteria from the digestive system enter the bloodstream and cause chronic inflammation. Reactive arthritis can affect anyone but usually affects those over 40 years old.
Fortunately, there are other ways to relieve inflammation than with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. One way is to take an ice bath.
The Benefits of Ice Bathing
An ice bath is exactly what it sounds like — immersing yourself in very cold water while wearing nothing but underwear (or perhaps just a bikini) and a towel. You might think that such a simple treatment would provide little benefit. However, taking an ice bath doesn’t only help ease inflammation; it also helps promote healing.
Ice bathes create a state of hypothermia, which means lowering your core temperature below 98 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). When the body lowers its internal temperature, it slows down metabolic processes and releases endorphins, hormones that act as natural painkillers. In addition, cold temperatures slow bleeding by constricting tiny blood vessels and reducing blood flow to injured areas.
In short, if you’ve got a sore or injury on your body, an ice bath will soothe swelling and lower your overall level of stress, anxiety, and tension. For this reason, ice bathing is often recommended before exercising because it reduces the risk of injury. And since ice baths also cause sweating, you’ll want to do them after exercise instead of before.
But what does ice actually feel like? Read on to find out.
According to some studies, 70 percent of Americans use prescription medications every day. That number jumps up to 90 percent among older adults.
Easing Swelling and Inflammation
Some researchers believe that the best time to start an ice bath is immediately following exercise. After strenuous activity, you could quickly cool off in an ice bath to prevent heat loss and potentially reduce muscle damage. A study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research showed that participants immersed in an ice bath experienced less muscle soreness and stiffness than those who took ibuprofen after exercise.
Other research indicates that an ice bath should last at least 10 minutes to achieve full benefits. To keep your skin safe during an ice bath, wear plastic gloves to protect your hands. If you don’t have access to an ice bath tub, you can place ice packs into a baggie filled with water. Simply immerse your body parts in the ice pack until it reaches your desired temperature.
While an ice bath provides many healthful effects, it can also pose risks. Next, read about how an ice bath can make you ill.
For most people, getting wet just feels good. But if you live near a saltwater beach, you might consider taking a dip. Although seawater contains calcium and magnesium salts, soaking in ocean water can raise your levels of sodium, chloride and phosphate — substances linked to kidney stones.
Health Risks of Ice Baths
Ice baths aren’t entirely healthy. While they can alleviate pain and reduce inflammation, they can also lead to frostbite and shock. Frostbite occurs when the skin turns blue and numb due to extreme cold. Symptoms include bluish coloration, discoloration of the extremities, reduced circulation, and the inability to maintain body temperature. Shock is another dangerous side effect of an ice bath. Severe shock causes low blood pressure and fluid leakage from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and stomach.
Shock is especially dangerous in children, seniors, and those suffering from heart conditions. Since ice baths involve cooling the entire body down to extremely low temperatures, shock is possible regardless of age. Children under the age of 14 shouldn’t participate in an ice bath because they lack the ability to regulate their own body temperature. Seniors are advised against ice baths because they increase the risk of falling and bone fractures. Finally, patients undergoing chemotherapy are discouraged from ice baths because they can compromise the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
Although ice baths are generally safe, they shouldn’t replace medical attention. Before beginning an ice bath regimen, consult your doctor to ensure that you’re fit enough to undergo the therapy. He or she can also recommend additional therapies if needed.
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