Exercise is great for your health. It lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and any number of other health conditions. But sometimes painful muscles can get in the way of all these health benefits. Feeling stiff and sore after a workout can dampen your enthusiasm to get back out there and get some more exercise.
Is there any way you can reduce the soreness you feel after working out? How about trying a little cryotherapy as an alternative remedy? Researchers at the University of Ulster in the UK suggest that cryotherapy, or cold water therapy, may be a good strategy to use to prevent or minimize muscle soreness and fatigue after exercise. Cold-water immersion, in water temperatures of less than 15°C, is currently one of the most popular interventions used for sore muscles. However, not a lot of clinical proof exists to confirm the effectiveness of this treatment.
The Ulster research team decided to search a number of clinical databases, including the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register and MEDLINE. The researchers included randomized trials comparing the effect of using cold-water immersion after exercise with: rest/no intervention; contrast immersion; warm-water immersion; active recovery; and compression. They looked for associations between these treatments and pain (muscle soreness) or tenderness (pain on palpation), and subjective recovery (return to previous activities without signs or symptoms).
Seventeen small trials were included, involving a total of 366 participants. The temperature, duration and frequency of cold-water immersion varied between the different trials, as did the exercises and settings. Two studies found cold-water immersion groups had significantly lower ratings of fatigue, and potentially improved rates of physical recovery immediately after the end of cold-water immersion. The researchers concluded that cold-water immersion reduces delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise, compared with passive interventions involving rest or no intervention.
You can try a little cryotherapy at home. Try immersing sore muscles in cold water and see if they recover faster than they usually do after exercise.
For more on how to relieve muscle pain, read the article How Ginger Could Ease Muscle Pain.