Cold water therapy, specifically ice baths, are becoming more and more popular in recent years. They have a number of mental and physical health benefits, and we’re going to delve deeper into how cold water can reduce inflammation in this guide.

What is Cold Water Therapy?

Cold water therapy, also known as cryotherapy or cold immersion therapy, refers to the process of immersing your whole body into cold water. This could be in the form of an ice bath, a cold shower, or even an outdoor swim.

It is popular amongst athletes to aid muscle recovery, and many top athletes swear by it as part of their post-workout recovery routine.

Typically, cold water for therapy should be anywhere below 15 degrees Celsius, with the ideal temperature being between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. The Chill Tub actually goes down as low as 3 degrees, however we do not recommend that you start at this temperature if you are new to cold water therapy.

The Science Behind Inflammation

In order to understand the benefits cold water has on inflammation, it’s important to acknowledge the science behind swelling.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to protect the body by attacking bacteria or healing damaged tissue.

Types of Inflammation

There are two main types of inflammation – acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.

Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation refers to a short term biological response to recover from injuries, or to fight infection or viruses in the body.

If you are an athlete or regularly partake in strenuous exercise, acute inflammation is likely something you are familiar with and have experienced many times before.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is where the immune system is overstimulated, and continues to send inflammatory cells when they are no longer needed. It can be related to many chronic conditions including diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders.

The Physiology of Cold Water Exposure on Inflammation

Do Ice Baths Reduce Inflammation?

When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, blood vessels constrict. This reduction in blood flow helps to limit the spread of inflammatory cells. As a result, swelling of the muscles (acute inflammation) is reduced.

This makes a chill tub the ideal post-workout recovery method for athletes and those who regularly partake in intense exercise sessions.

Cold Water Therapy for Inflammatory-related Conditions

When it comes to chronic inflammation, cold water therapy could be beneficial in some patients.

Despite not promising a cure for inflammatory-related conditions such as arthritis, ice baths can provide temporary pain relief and a reduction in swelling. If you suffer from an inflammatory-related condition, we recommend you speak to a healthcare professional about the best treatment for you.

Why Are Ice Baths So Popular for Muscle Recovery?

The practice of cold immersion therapy is nothing new. It has been used for centuries in various cultures across the globe, due to the health benefits it provides.

Ice baths have become increasingly more popular in recent years, particularly amongst athletes and fitness enthusiasts who want to see for themselves the recovery benefits they offer. There are more and more research studies being produced that shows the connection between cold water therapy and muscle recovery, amongst many other benefits.

The popularity increase of cold baths correlates to the rise of wellness culture, particularly around holistic health practices including physical recovery, mental wellbeing, and stress reduction techniques. People are now more aware than ever about the importance of looking after their physical and mental health, and are keen to find helpful practices to introduce into their daily routine.

Other Methods of Inflammation Management

Whether you suffer from chronic inflammation, or experience occasional acute inflammation after sessions of intense exercise, there are several methods you can try to manage the swelling, in addition to cold water therapy.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Many foods have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for managing inflammation. These foods include oily fish, leafy greens, olive oil and nuts.

Supplements

Some vitamins and supplements can help to reduce inflammation. These include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc.

Anti-inflammatory Medications

There are over the counter medications which can be used to lower inflammation, including ibuprofen and aspirin. You may also be prescribed medication if you see a GP, such as antibiotics for infection or ongoing medication for chronic illnesses.

How Do They Compare to Cold Water Therapy?

When it comes to cold water therapy vs other methods of controlling inflammation, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You may find that a combination of using ice baths and other methods work best for you.

It may take some time to find a lifestyle and routine which allows you to stay on top of inflammation most effectively. You should experiment to find what works for you, and speak to a healthcare professional for advice if your swelling is caused by an inflammatory-related condition.

Possible Risks and Considerations

While cold water therapy is generally considered safe for most people, it is important to be aware of the potential risks if you have certain medical conditions or aren’t sticking to guidelines.

Ice baths may not be suitable for individuals with cardiovascular or respiratory issues. In addition, prolonged exposure to cold water (over the recommended 15 minutes) is not good for the body and can lead to hypothermia.

As long as you are taking care when using an ice bath, listening to your body, and not pushing yourself beyond where it feels comfortable, cold water therapy is safe and has a number of great benefits for the body.

Conclusion: Does Cold Water Reduce Inflammation?

While the topic of whether cold water therapy is good for inflammation is something that continues to be researched within the scientific community, there is lots of evidence to suggest it can be beneficial for many individuals.

It is difficult to say whether cold water therapy is beneficial for those with chronic inflammation, as each condition displays different symptoms, which also vary between patients. Having said this, there are studies to suggest it could help with pain reduction.

When it comes to managing acute inflammation such as swelling of muscles after exercise, many individuals feel the benefits of ice baths. Many athletes are now turning to cold water therapy as their go-to method for muscle recovery, and we predict it will continue to grow in popularity over the coming years.

Contact Us

If you have any questions around cold water therapy, ice baths or our very own Chill Tubs, please don’t hesitate to contact us. One of our experts will be happy to answer your questions.

FAQs

Between 5 and 10 minutes at a time is the most common length of time to use an ice bath for. You should start off with a short duration and gradually increase the time spent immersed in cold water, to get a feel for what is comfortable for you. It is not recommended to exceed 15 minutes of cold water immersion in one session.

Ice baths are a common treatment for muscle injuries, particularly amongst athletes. They work by restricting blood flow, which in turn reduces inflammation. When the body returns to normal temperature, blood vessels expand, enhancing nutrient and oxygen delivery to your muscles.

There is some evidence to suggest that cold water therapy could be beneficial to those with chronic inflammation. Conditions it may help with include diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders.

If you suffer from an inflammatory condition, you should speak to a healthcare professional before trying cold water therapy as a treatment.