Dr. Harry’s Optimal Sports Performance and Recovery Series - Part 4
How Ice Baths and Anti-Inflammatory Agents Can Improve Performance Recovery
- Written by Dr. Harrison Weisinger MBBS, Ph.D.
Perhaps the biggest theme in the race for better recovery is inflammation - or rather, combating it. There are several tried and true ways to reduce inflammation. I’ll first talk about the coolest one (pun intended), the ice bath.
You ever wonder why ice is applied when a footballer sprains their ankle, or why trauma doctors infuse cold IV fluids to cool the body after a serious accident? It’s because inflammation can be reduced very effectively by lowering the body’s temperature. Thus, speeding up recovery. It’s the same for hard exercise - inflammation can be reduced substantially by taking an ice-bath (yes, getting into a bath filled with ice!), wading in cold water such as a lake or the ocean, or by standing in the shower under cold water.
I never recommend a sports treatment I wouldn’t do myself, and I have had my fair share of ice baths. This tip is super effective, but it isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you are game to sit in a tub with a full bag of ice and cold water for 5-10 minutes, you will feel far better for it the next day. No pain, no gain!
The next no brainer to help reduce inflammation is anti-inflammatory agents. Before I begin, I want to suggest consulting your doctor to discuss your activity and to see what is the best fit for you.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are reserved for those with severe inflammation, pain, or injury. Indeed, aspirin and ibuprofen are two of the highest selling drugs of all time because they are so good at reducing inflammation and also the pain sensation associated with it.
However, these ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs’ (NSAIDs) should only ever be used for short periods of time (under a week) because of the potential for adverse effects. NSAIDs affect prostaglandin synthesis which has an effect not only on inflammation, but also on the blood supply to the stomach lining and the kidneys. Stomach ulcers and kidney impairment are adverse effects of NSAID overuse.
Steroids such as prednisolone and prednisone (these aren’t anabolic) are drugs that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Prescribed by a doctor, they are used to manage severe inflammation and can be used systemically (treat the whole body) or locally (for instance, injected into an inflamed joint).
Steroids are one of the most important classes of drugs ever used in medicine but, as you may have guessed, they carry a potential list of side effects as long as your arm. They are only ever used short-term, and must be taken on the advice of a doctor.
Reducing inflammation is critical for athletic recovery. Two great ways to do that is by using ice baths and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Click here to read how compression and massages can improve performance recovery
I will also talk about this next one in my future blog but Curcumin is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can certainly be an effective way to combat inflammation. There have been numerous studies conducted on curcumin’s anit-inflammatory properties, and it certainly doesn’t have the nasty side effects of NSAIDS and steroids.
Check out Part 5 to find out how Omega Fatty Acids and Curcumin can Improve Performance Recovery
Dr. Harrison Weisinger (MBBS, Ph.D.)
Dr. Harry is the Medical Director for Truth Origins, and a practicing medical doctor in Australia. Throughout his working career as medical doctor, university professor, and scientist, Dr. Harry has committed his life to improving human health. Each month he reads the various journals and studies being conducted across the world’s leading universities and research hospitals to bring you the latest research surrounding the truth about plant-based medicine.
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