Muscle Recovery Tips: Heat, Cold, Contrast Water Therapy, Magnesium Pools


Part of increasing overall fitness and building lean muscle is looking after our bodies post-exercise by finding the best muscle recovery tips

One area of after-workout recovery is using temperature to ease muscle aches and prevent the dreaded DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) that occurs after intense exercise due to the tiny tears in our muscle fibres.  

DOMS is different to the pain we feel during or immediately after working out – known as acute muscle soreness – and takes one or two days to kick-in. It’s not always a bad thing either as the soreness means our muscles cell activity has been stimulated. Our bodies are working to repair the micro-tears and in turn build more muscle

So how do we recover faster after pushing our bodies with a challenging Workout? And is there any way to prevent DOMS? 

Heat Therapy 

Using heat packs or warm water baths after working out is a proven way to provide temporary relief from muscle pain and acute inflammation. 

If our muscles are inflamed and tight, especially common after weight-lifting or if undertaking a new exercise routine, then heat can help. 

Also known as thermotherapy, using hot baths or heat pads promotes blood flow as the warmth dilates blood vessels increasing circulation and aiding healing. 

When to Use: When post-workout soreness is felt. . 

Benefits: Helps relieve muscle aches, can alleviate pain, prevents damage to joints. 

Cons: Will not prevent DOMS. Do not use heat immediately after exercise. 

Cold Water Immersion

We’ve all seen footballers and other pro-athletes jump in an ice water bath after a performance, but does it work? 

There have been a number of recent studies proving that taking a cold water bath immediately after – that is within 12 hours of finishing the intense exercise – can prevent inflammation of the muscles. Inflamed muscles = sore muscles so stopping inflammation will in turn help ease the associated pain. 

Also known as cryotherapy, cold water treatment is an effective way to prevent muscle soreness but it will probably not do too much once DOMS has set in. 

There is a difference too between ice baths, in which immersion time must be carefully timed, and cold baths at a slightly higher temperature. Both help flush lactic acid out of muscle tissue by constricting blood vessels in the submerged area and reduce swelling. 

Muscle inflammation does however help our bodies adapt to exercise and boosts strength so ice baths could hinder that process if undertaken too often. 

When to Use: Immediately after intense exercise when speedy recovery is needed. 

Benefits: Reduces muscle damage, alleviates muscle inflammation, helps prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness. 

Cons: Some research has suggested this kind of cold water sports therapy could actually slow muscle growth and hinder muscle regeneration, which is not ideal if trying to increase muscle strength or build new muscle. 

Contrast Water Therapy 

Contrast water therapy is a combination of both cold and warm water baths post-workout. If DOMS has set in and using either warm compressions or ice to treat the muscle aches does not work, then pain relief might come by swapping between the two. 

Contrast therapy does not have to involve immersion, it can be as simple as alternating between warm or cool baths. 

Going from one temperature extreme to the other helps to boost blood flow to affected muscles as cold treatments reduce blood flow, while heat promotes blood flow helping to relax muscles and decrease overall tightness. 

Check out both P3 Sports and Recovery (located in Burleigh Heads) and Recovery & Massage Centre (located in Miami) who offer contrast water therapy among other recovery services.

Magnesium Pools

Magnesium pools take water therapy for post-exercise muscle relief to the next level. Combining the benefits of water immersion with the active mineral magnesium, they are increasingly popular with athletes of all kinds especially runners. 

These sports recovery pools allow users to bathe and or swim in water enriched with Magnesium Chloride that is then absorbed transdermally – directly through the skin. 

Magnesium helps muscle cells to relax after contracting during exercise, preventing cramps and muscle spasms. It is considered the most crucial mineral for muscle recovery

There are many ways to use magnesium as a supplement including in creams that can be rubbed directly onto the affected areas, but magnesium pools are really the Holy Grail. 

This super mineral helps to improve flexibility, prevent injury, loosen tight muscles and decrease the build-up of lactic acid so we can get back to working out quicker and more effectively. 

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