TARLAKENYO (Dec. 29, 2022) — The act of taking a cold plunge, or immersing oneself in ice-cold water, has grown in popularity recently on TikTok, with the hashtag #coldplunge generating more than 350 million video views. However, the advantages of cold water immersion still need to be discovered; if done poorly, it might be harmful.
According to Mike Tipton, Ph.D., MBE, a professor of human and applied physiology at the University of Portsmouth’s Extreme Environments Laboratory in the United Kingdom, “cold water immersion does activate the stress response, so you will feel alert and awake because it’s part of the fight or flight response and a side effect of cortisol and adrenaline being released.” But depending on the situation, it may be beneficial or harmful.
Nearly all of the research on the health advantages of submersion in cold water is anecdotal, or people describe their benefits without being subjected to the scrutiny of a formal scientific study, said Tipton, who studies the effects of severe conditions like cold water on the body.
This is dangerous if you don’t do it correctly, but you can do it safely, according to a ton of solid evidence, Tipton said. The issue remains as to whether you will gain from it.
Here are some things to consider before trying cold plunging if you’ve been fascinated by it and are contemplating it.
Since ancient times, people have spent time in cold water to exercise, participate in religious rituals, or worship. Recent years have seen the promotion of cold water plunges and cold water swimming as a cure for anything from depression to boosting the immune system by individuals like Wim Hof, a Dutch motivational speaker, and extreme athlete.
According to Lee Hill, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and postdoctoral scholar at the Research Institute for the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, who researches cold water swimming, the most well-studied benefit of cold water immersion is its impact on pain.
A meta-analysis of 32 controlled trials indicated that applying heat or cold treatment within an hour after doing out both postponed the development of muscular soreness. This study was published in 2021 in Physical Therapy in Sport.
Hill says, “We know that using ice in a first-aid situation lowers inflammation and, at the very least, lessens pain perception.” The pain neurons are slowed by cold, preventing them from sending pain signals to the brain.
However, studies have shown that cold immersion is beneficial for reducing pain and inflammation, but it also limits muscle regeneration, which can slow down the healing process.
A 2015 study revealed that submerging in cold water after working out prevented muscle fiber formation, which resulted in decreased strength development and muscular hypertrophy.
The impact of cryotherapy on metabolism, inflammation, and tissue damage has primarily been studied in animal models, specialists stated in a review article published in 2021 in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. This means that the impact on humans is currently little known. According to the experts, frequent cryotherapy might counteract exercise’s positive effects on the muscles. However, if taken cautiously, it can be utilized to speed up recovery if someone returns to activity immediately.
According to Hill, Cryotherapy can potentially be a promising component of pain-causing disease treatments.
Even while post-workout cold treatment may have unwanted effects, it may be used to treat disorders like rheumatism and carpal tunnel syndrome and lessen their associated pain and inflammation. This is especially true if cold water is exclusively given to specific body areas, such as the hands.
The use of cold water reduces the amount of pain and tissue volume, or inflammation, according to Hill, who noted that it might be used as an adjunct therapy, not in lieu of, but as a component of the treatment plan for pain.