Olympic Weightlifting Resource

Icing and Using Contrast Showers for Recovery
Many people know what I stands for in the acronym RICE. However, icing can also be used after workout to help prevent unnecessary inflammation and to help treat problem areas.

It is important that if an area is injured or if there is excess inflammation to start icing it within the first 48 to 72 hours of the symptoms. Using ice on the injured area will help reduce any internal bleeding or swelling in the area caused by physical activity. It is important to start as soon as possible otherwise inflammation can set in and it will cause pain, swelling, redness, heat, and decrease function in the area, which is not good!

When applying to ice to an injured area keep it on the area for 10 to 30 minutes at a time and then leave it off for 30 to 45 minutes. After the 30-45 minutes are up and if there is still discomfort, ice can be applied for another 10 to 30 minutes. Repeat this procedure for as long as necessary to help reduce any discomfort felt. When discomfort is felt in joints from overuse or another form of injury, ice should be applied for several times for the next 48hrs. If the area does not get any better seek medical assistance. Likewise a deep muscle injury will take longer to cool than a tendon/ligament injury so it would be best to ice for 48 to 72 hours to see if any pain or discomfort still persists. Also if a severe bruise happens to any part of the body the bruise will benefit from icing for up to 7 days after it is injured.

Do not directly put the ice on your skin, which may cause ice burn. It is best to have a ice bag or if not grab a plastic bag and wrap a towel around it and place the bag with the towel wrapped around it on the injured area. Also if the skin is numb you can stop the icing and let it warm up and then repeat if necessary. Do not use ice on open wounds or blisters. Remember if the area does not get any better after a couple days it would be best to seek medical attention to make sure the injured area is not severely hurt.

Contrasting Showers
Alternating between hot and cold temperatures in the shower is also a beneficial method to help improve recovery time and eliminate soreness. Contrast showers will promote blood flow and stimulate the nervous both of which influence recovery and arousal levels. With increased blood circulation in the muscles because of the contrasting temperature of the water it will cause a rise in nutrients to the area and immune cells to the area also. Another benefit of increased circulation to the muscles is it increases the excretion of cellular and metabolic waste from the muscles and body. Using contrast showers will help strengthen and normalize many functions of the body such as the endocrine, circulatory, musculoskeletal, nervous and it will help the body deal with physiological and psychological stress.

Procedure
After taking a hot shower turn down the water to a temperature cool enough to tolerate for roughly 1 minute. If there are specific sore areas focus the stream of cool water on that area. After the one minute is up turn the water back to warm for 3-5 minutes. Make sure the warm phase is always longer than the cold phase. Repeat this cycle 3-5 times. Make sure to end on a cold phase.

The larger the contrast between the hot and cold water the more there will be a therapeutic benefit. Start with a temperature that can be tolerated and then more to a colder temperature and the more you get used to the contrasting shower the more you can play around with the speed and degree of the temperature. Remember to always have the hot/warm phase of the contrast shower last longer and to always end on the cold phase.

References:
Hayes, K.W. Manual for Physical Agents, 4th ed. 1993. Norwalk, CT. Appleton & Lange. Pp. ix, 169.