Ice bad for sore muscles?, NY Times sheds new light on when to use ice.
The journal Sports Medicine suggests that for sore muscles, ice is not always the panacea that most of us believe it to be and that, in some instances, it can be counterproductive. I would agree with this simply because there is a right way and a wrong way to use ice.
The right way to use ice is to ice after injury 10-20 minutes. The ice will help numb the area. Current information shows that it is likely not to decrease inflammation, however, compression and elevation can help decrease inflammation.
The article mentions situations where it can actually slow athletic performance. For years, it was thought that if you work out hard and if you are very sore, if you ice the area down, it allows you to compete or continue to work out. The problem with this is that the area is sore for a reason and the reason is usually bio mechanical. A great example of this is you run hard, and the shins are quite sore. Your coach suggests you do an ice bath after or even before you compete. The problem is that these symptoms suggest that there is something wrong, whether they are foot probles, problems in your core, etc. Icing the area of symptoms does not improve the region, it just numbs it out, which may be the ultimate reason that people who are iced prior to competition may in fact be slower. Ice will stiffen tissues, however, this type of management most certainly sets the person up for a more significant problem down the road.
Check out the NY times article here