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Your Healthy Family: The benefits of ice baths and other recovery methods for veins

Posted at 7:45 AM, Feb 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 10:37:48-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — When you think about doing massages, stretching, and ice baths after a rigorous workout or activity, you probably think about how it helps your muscles. But Dr. Joseph Cipriano at Lumiere Cosmetic Vein Center in Cape Coral said it's also good for your veins and getting blood back to your heart.

"You have to have a balance of blood flow in and blood flow out," Dr. Cipriano said.

He said arteries bring in good blood filled with nutrients and oxygen and veins remove the bad blood filled with waste.

“Arteries are, I make it akin to a delivery truck around the holidays, bringing cookies and presents to the house. But then the veins are the trash collectors. They are bringing the trash off the street so that way, the cookies and the presents and everything can get to the houses and delivered. Without the removal of the waste, obviously, it makes it much more difficult for the good blood to come in. So there has to be a circuit," Dr. Cipriano said.

YHF: The benefits of ice baths and other recovery methods for veins

He said recovery methods like stretching, massages, and ice baths help that process move along more efficiently.

"Anything that helps with that blood return. So when you get a massage, think about what you're enabling with doing that massage, you're actually helping push that fluid back up," he said. "Massage can help you with the recovery of that fluid, moving that fluid out of that tissue."

Of all the parts of your body, he said it's most difficult for your blood to travel from your lower legs and feet back up to your heart. He said with leg lifts and stretches, you can help your body redirect that blood flow back to your heart. He said an example is to try laying on your back and holding one leg up in the air at a time.

"Stretching techniques, you can do a lot on your own. But then with an active assistant that actually can help you stretch, you can actually get to another level of what your stretch can accomplish," Dr. Cipriano said.

He said ice baths help in recovery because they help your veins constrict.

“Arteries can contract, they can constrict that muscle within them. Veins can as well, but not to the same level and extent," he said. "Cold. Ice. Nobody likes to embrace or think of that here in Florida. I know when it gets below 70 I still feel like I got to wear a jacket, so it gets cold out. But that little bit of exposure to that cooler environment helps encourage that blood flow and return. It's going to clamp down on all the skin's tissues and actually make it so you get that evacuation of venous blood."

He said it's important because blood carries waste products like carbon dioxide, acids, and metabolic byproducts. The cold from the ice bath constricts your veins and helps move that process along.

"When we enable that, we help with the removal of that waste, we help protect ourselves, prevent injury, and help with recovery after our exercises," Dr. Cipriano said.

He said ice baths are especially beneficial to people who live in hot climates like Florida.

“Hot weather promotes vasodilation — meaning venous disease will be worse here than it is up north. You will have a worse venous disease potential down here. But if people are more active then we’re fine. It's when people are here and they’re sedentary," he said.

Watch the video above to see how to set up an ice bath at home.