Topical cooling with an ice pack is a typical form of therapeutic modality with the goal of reducing pain and inflammation. However, it is known inflammation occurs from exercise induced muscle damage. This inflammation helps build muscle strength and improve weakness.
Ice lowers tissue temperature and reduces peripheral blood perfusion. This is thought to influence the muscle damage and healing rate, altering cytokine (inflammatory markers).
This study looked to determine whether topical cooling can improve recovery in eccentric contraction-induced muscle damage.
What was done
Eleven male college baseball players underwent two trials: sham application and topical cooling. Each trial was used five sessions of 15-min cold pack application to the exercised muscles 0 hours, 3 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours after eccentric exercise training.
The eccentric training protocol consisted of 6 sets of 5 eccentric contractions with 2 min rest between sets at 85% of their maximal strength. Muscle hemodynamics (hemoglobin most notably), inflammatory cytokines (multiple interleukins), muscle damage markers (Creatine kinase), visual analog scale (VAS), and muscle isometric strength.
After topical cooling, rapid and sustained elevations in total hemoglobin and tissue oxygen saturation were noted. Also, creatine kinase was noted in both trials, but was elevated after topical cooling. Inflammatory markers were not changed following cooling. VAS was not different between groups, however topical cooling significantly increased rating of fatigue post-exercise. No significant differences were noted in strength between groups.
Increased muscle damage, most notably the creatine kinase increase, was apparent in the topical cooling group. This is thought to occur from the rapid deviation in blood supply to the muscle.
Using ice after practice to improve muscular soreness appears to increase muscle damage due to rapid changes in ischemia. Therefore, unless injured topical cooling should likely be avoided.
- Tseng CY, Lee JP, Tsai YS, Lee SD, Kao CL, Liu TC, Lai CS, Harris MB, Kuo CH.Topical Cooling (Icing) Delays Recovery from Eccentric Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jul 18. [Epub ahead of print]
Sign-up here to receive this month's edition and all future publications for only $10/month. Each edition covers articles ranging from biomechaincs, physiology, rehabilitation, genetic, and much more! These reviews explain the latest sports science research in straightforward language.
This will help you apply knowledge in the review to the pool deck, separating yourself from your peers!
And don’t worry, there’s no fixed commitment period, so if you don’t want to continue receiving the monthly publication, you can just cancel your payment whenever you want.