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It's Almost Winter Time! Doesn't a Nice Ice Bath Sound Inviting? Your Joints and Muscles May Thank You for It!

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Bones & Joints related image Photo: Getty Images

I’ve heard about it. I’ve read about it. At present, I have no desire to experience it. However, it is worth taking a peek at the benefits of cold therapy with ice….mainly, an ice bath.

As an avid runner, I have encountered stories of those who either treat injuries, or better yet, prevent injuries with consistent use of an ice bath. I don’t know about you, but after a long run or work out, especially in the cold, winter months, all that is on my mind post-workout is to hit the shower – a very HOT one - and steam up the bathroom. I want to feel as if I am near the equator, not in Siberia.

The ice bath, also referred to at cryotherapy or cold therapy, constricts the blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity. In turn, swelling is reduced and the breakdown of tissue is halted. Once the skin is not in contact with the cold source, the tissues underneath begin to warm up which allows the blood to flow faster as it returns, and harmful metabolic debris is flushed out of your muscles. (Correct me if I am wrong, but does not a nice massage on a heated massage table boast similar results?)

While most people, myself included, would probably prefer to use a simple ice pack as opposed to immersing themselves in a tub full of ice, research has shown that full immersion into ice actually produces a longer lasting change in the deep tissues and is a more efficient way to cool large muscle groups at once.

According to an article in Runner’s World magazine, there are tips to make the “delightful” ice bath a more pleasant experience. One ultra-marathoner fills his tub with two or three bags of crushed ice and then adds cold water to a point that will nearly cover him to his waist when he sits in the tub. He then dons a down jacket, a hat, and some neoprene booties, sips some hot tea, and sits among the ice for about 20 minutes. He suggests some pleasant reading material to while the time away. I would be too frozen to turn the pages. In fact, my eyes would probably freeze as I stared into space.

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