A recent episode of The Clinical Gap Podcast explores cryotherapy for pain, exercise recovery, and injury healing. Does research support the common claims?
If you have pain from an injury, feel free to apply ice for pain relief but understand that is not going to make much of a difference in the recovery process.
We don’t have enough data to suggest it blunts inflammation to a meaningful degree, impeding healing time. Perhaps it has some effect, but not enough to matter. If pain relief promotes more movement and reduces fear, is call that a net benefit. Telling someone to suck it up, grit through the pain, and just sleep anyway is lazy and useless. I’ll take ice over pain meds.
You also don’t need to use cryotherapy to be successful in the gym. Perhaps it allows you to squeeze out a few more sets of exercises. It may motivate you to attend a gym session by attenuating your soreness levels.
Ice doesn’t replace sound programming, adequate sleep, and good nutrition.
It’s just another tool that may provide minor benefits.
For more details, including supporting research, check out the full episode or full Medium article, Freezing for Fitness? The Science Behind Cryotherapy and its Impact on Recovery" (friend link)