After an intense workout or minor injury, we go to the freezer, grab an ice pack (or a frozen bag of peas), and apply ice to the sore areas. It's always been common practice to apply ice to reduce swelling and inflammation. However, new studies have shown that icing actually delays muscle recovery time. So, put that ice pack back in the freezer, and let's uncover the cold, hard truth about icing.
It was previously thought that swelling and inflammation hinders healing. Icing was used to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. However, now researchers state inflammation is actually super important during the recovery process. Inflammation is the immune system's response to rebuild, repair, and heal damage to soft tissue in cases like muscle pulls, strains, or general soreness. During inflammation, inflammatory cells called macrophages release a hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) in the injured area which aids in recovery. Applying ice causes blood vessels to constrict. As a result, constriction prevents inflammatory cells and their healing hormones from getting to the injured area. Any method to reduce inflammation including medicines, ice baths, cold packs, and anything else that stops the immune system's natural response to an injury delays healing.
Icing can be used for pain management, not for recovery. If you want to use ice for pain management, it is advised to only use for five minutes at a time and remove it for a minimum of 20 minutes before reapplying. There is no reason or benefit to apply ice to an injury more than six hours after an intense workout or injury. Icing longer than this is detrimental to tissue repair, and it can also reduce strength, flexibility, and endurance. Once blood vessels are constricted, they can stay closed for hours. The lack of circulation could cause tissue death and permanent nerve damage.
Muscle Activation! Movement facilitates healing by propelling fluids through the vessels to get the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. Moving sore muscles can be easy by doing light exercises, stretching, and resistance training. While acute injuries are more complicated, if your doctor clears you to stand on it, make sure you do it! Constant resting will not speed up recovery time.
Use Compression Products! Compression is a great way to aid in recovery by reducing swelling and pain. It also helps to improve blood and fluid circulation. This in turn helps get oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the injured area necessary for healing, and aids transporting waste (damaged tissue) away from the injured area.
Use Heat, Not Ice! Heating the muscle can help dilate blood vessels, allowing for freer flow of the immune cells that speed up recovery.
Zensah's newest recovery product, the Heat Recovery Sock, combines gentle heating and compression to keep you moving. They are made with a special yarn that emits Far Infrared Rays (FIR) when they come into contact with a heat source such as the human body. The fabric absorbs the heat generated by the body and then reflects FIR's back onto the calf and lower leg, providing deep, gentle heating of the muscle. This in turn increases blood oxygenation, which reduces muscle fatigue by limiting the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles. By wearing during and after strenuous exercise, you can cut down on sore muscles and get moving again sooner than with conventional fabrics.
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