Ice can be used for much more than cooling your favourite wine or cocktail!
Countless athletes such as Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray and Mo Farrah have helped to aid their recovery from strenuous activity by submerging themselves in ice baths!
The theory behind cold water immersion involves the process reducing swelling and flushing out waste products.
A reduction in swelling is thought to be achievable through stimulating vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction is where blood vessels constrict and become smaller and tighter, therefore restricting the flow of blood and swelling within the tissue. The compression from the surrounding water is also thought to reduce swelling through hydrostatic pressure. The deeper the ice bath the higher the hydrostatic pressure can be due to the volume of fluid exerting pressure onto your tissues (this is why ice baths in wheelie bins have been popular!).
Ice baths have also been suggested to help flush out waste products through the process of constructing blood vessels as it squeezes out all waste products such as lactic acid from the muscular tissue. Following a dip in an ice bath your tissues will begin to warm causing vasodilation this helps to bring a rush of fresh blood to the area containing nutrients and cells needed for tissue repair. The rush of fresh blood also helps to carry away waste products from the area to be filtered and expelled from the body.
However, there is very limited scientific evidence to support the theory of ice baths, so there is no guarantee plunging into an ice bath will help.
Personally, I would choose to use other methods for promoting recovery following strenuous exercises such as stretching and massage! Both these techniques have been found to promote healing and tissue recovery, reduce pain and inflammation and reduce the intensity of DOMS!