Plunging into cold water after exercise may be an effective way to reduce muscle soreness, but it is unclear whether there are harmful side effects. These are the conclusions of a new systematic review of cold water immersion interventions published in The Cochrane Library.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is associated with stiffness, swelling and soreness a day or more after exercise. One increasingly popular method that both elite and amateur athletes use to try to prevent or reduce soreness is immersing themselves in cold water or ice baths. The claim is that this cold water immersion technique, sometimes referred to as cryotherapy, reduces muscle inflammation and its ensuing effects. The researchers wanted to assess the strength of clinical evidence about how well it works, and whether there is any evidence of harm.


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