A new study conducted by researchers from Kobe University is highlighting a popular belief about the muscle recovery process that may not actually be true.
While some people may reach for an ice pack when they have sore muscles, researchers say doing so could actually prolong the recovery process. The team explained that putting ice on injured muscles actually makes it harder for the muscle to fully heal, which can increase the time consumers spend in pain.
How does icing impact recovery?
For the study, the researchers analyzed how icing impacts the muscle recovery process in mice. The team mimicked severe muscle strain injuries in the mice, and half of the subjects were given ice for their recovery. The ice treatments were administered three times a day for 30 minutes at a time for two days following the injury. The researchers analyzed how well the muscles healed in both groups two weeks after getting hurt.
Following a muscle injury, the goal is for the muscle to regenerate so the body can heal. This study showed that the group receiving ice for their injuries had fewer regenerated muscle fibers compared to the group that didn’t ice the injury.
For the muscle to fully heal, pro-inflammatory cells work to rid the body of damaged cells and rebuild new muscle fibers. By icing the muscle, the researchers say it made it more difficult for these pro-inflammatory cells to do their job and initiate the recovery process, which is what slowed down the healing for the mice in the study.
While many consumers think that icing an injury will help bring down inflammation, the researchers explained that some inflammation is necessary for the body to go through the proper healing process and rebuild a healthy muscle.
Moving forward, the team hopes that more consumers understand the potential long-term impacts of icing muscle injuries. They also explained that ice shouldn’t be avoided in every scenario because it can be beneficial with certain injuries. The group plans to do more work to better understand when ice is helpful versus when it’s harmful.