Ice pack or toasty bath: which is the best for exercise pain? The right thermotherapy depends on your sitch. Check out our spectrum to bring on the ahhs…
1. Hot bath
Soaking in comfortably steamy water after endurance exercise (say, a marathon) can help your exhausted muscles regain strength faster, per a new study. The theory: heat helps your muscles utilise carbs afterwards (as fuel), speeding up the repair process.
2. Heating pad
Chronic muscle aches, meet your match. A warming wrap increases circulation and feels more soothing than ice on an area that cramps or flares up regularly (e.g. hammies or lower back) during or after activity. Use it for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. Ed’s note: Try Deep Heat patches – they’re on sale at Dis-Chem right now.
3. Ice pack
Best for immediate post-exercise throbs or minor injuries, the frozen stuff can reduce swelling and numb pain in a localised spot – especially a joint, like a knee, hip or ankle. Apply within 30 minutes; remove after 15, then repeat.
4. Frosty tub
For intense workouts only (sprints, CrossFit). The ice moves blood to the body’s centre to keep your organs warm – when you get out, blood flows back extra hard to your extremities, promoting healing. Aim for 15 total minutes in three-minute intervals.