Scientific research supports icing for recovery.

How good is the evidence that supports icing? That's a good question and one that deserves a good answer. We peered into the world of professional and scientific publications to look for answers to this question.

We used as sources for our information peer reviewed journals that rely on experimental data and scientific methods to draw conclusions, as opposed to articles that merely advocate somebody’s logic or opinion. These are scholarly articles whose authors either performed original testing as part of their research or they reviewed existing studies to ascertain the overall effectiveness of cryotherapy. Here is what we found:

Scientific methods have been used for decades all around the world to determine if icing works and how well it does. There were many experiments performed on athletes using scientific methods (control groups, objective measurements, gathered data, etc) that draw the same conclusion. Specifically, that icing after exercise-induced-muscle-damage (EIMD) improves recovery over merely resting.  Additionally,  icing with compression offers even greater benefits.

Here is a bibliography of articles that support icing as a means of improving recovery from exercise. You can find these and other articles online by using an appropriate search site such as PubMed.

  • Aguilera Eguía RA, Ibacache Palma A. Cold-water immersion versus passive therapy to decrease delayed onset muscular soreness: a CAT]. Medwave. 2014 Jun 12;14(5):e5967. PubMed PMID: 25375114.

  • Assumpção Cde O, Lima LC, Oliveira FB, Greco CC, Denadai BS. Exercise-induced muscle damage and running economy in humans. Scientific World Journal. 2013;2013:189149. PubMed PMID: 23431253; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3575608.

  • Howatson G, Van Someren KA. Ice massage: Effects on exercise-induced muscle damage. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2003 Dec;43(4):500-5. PubMed PMID: 14767412.

  • Hubbard TJ, Denegar CR. Does Cryotherapy Improve Outcomes With Soft Tissue Injury? Journal of Athletic Training. 2004 Sep;39(3):278-279. PubMed PMID: 15496998; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC522152.

  • Mac Auley DC. Ice therapy: how good is the evidence? International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2001 Jul;22(5):379-84. PubMed PMID: 11510876.

  • Merrick MA, Knight KL, Ingersoll CD, Potteiger JA. The effects of ice and compression wraps on intramuscular temperatures at various depths. Journal of Athletic Training. 1993 Fall;28(3):236-45. PubMed PMID: 16558238; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1317720.

  • Oakley ET, Pardeiro RB, Powell JW, Millar AL. The effects of multiple daily applications of ice to the hamstrings on biochemical measures, signs, and symptoms associated with exercise-induced muscle damage. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013 Oct;27(10):2743-51. PubMed PMID: 23364294.

  • Roberts LA, Nosaka K, Coombes JS, Peake JM. Cold water immersion enhances recovery of submaximal muscle function after resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2014 Oct 15;307(8):R998-R1008. PubMed PMID: 25121612.

  • Vaile JM, Gill ND, Blazevich AJ. The effect of contrast water therapy on symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2007 Aug;21(3):697-702. PubMed PMID: 17685683.

  • Waterman B, Walker JJ, Swaims C, Shortt M, Todd MS, et al. The efficacy of combined cryotherapy and compression compared with cryotherapy alone following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Journal of Knee Surgery. 2012 May;25(2):155-60. PubMed PMID: 22928433.