Using ice is one of the most popular and widely used recovery methods available.
So when is the best time to use ice for optimal recovery?
Following a more Serious Acute Muscle Injury
Serious acute muscle injuries can range from strains and tears to complete ruptures of the muscle fibers. Recovery from such injuries can take several weeks to months and will depend on the severity of the injury and the treatment plan.
Applying ice to the injured area can help reduce swelling and inflammation. Apply ice for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, for the first 48-72 hours after the injury.
Following an Endurance Training Session
Research shows that ice can upregulate the pgc-1alpha protein, which is beneficial for muscle energy metabolism and therefore, endurance performance.
By reducing inflammation and pain, ice therapy can help speed up the recovery process after an endurance training session, allowing you to get back to your training regimen more quickly.
When Performance is your Goal
Research shows that because ice reduces blood flow and the inflammatory response, it may blunt training adaptations.
Ice can also numb pain receptors, providing relief from soreness and discomfort. This can be especially useful for athletes who need to push through a training session or competition despite minor injuries or muscle strains. Cold temperatures can increase alertness and mental clarity, which can be helpful in high-pressure situations where focus and concentration are essential.
However, when you are playing in a tournament and you have multiple matches in a short space of time(maybe even in the same day), you're not worried about adaptation, you're only worried about helping your body to return to a level where it can perform at the required level again.