Win or lose, after a tennis match British number one Andy Murray, has a shower, some food and drink, and a massage and then rounds off his routine with an ice bath. For eight minutes he sits in iced water kept at 8-10C (46-50F) And he’s not the only athlete to use ice baths to help recovery after a competition. Heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill used to stand in a wheelie bin of iced water for the sake of her muscles (pictured, below). The success of these sportspeople and others who adopt this technique would suggest that ice baths work, but when you look for evidence for the impact of this painful remedy, it’s sketchy.
The idea is that immersing the body in freezing cold water speeds up recovery after exercise by reducing temperature, blood flow and inflammation in tissues of the muscles. Lots of us will have noticed that a bag of frozen peas does reduce the pain and swelling when you’ve pulled a muscle. In one study participants were instructed to put one leg into an ice bath after a strenuous run, and to leave the other one out. Swelling was reduced in the freezing cold leg.