We’ve all done it before. Getting really warm and hot in a sauna, a steam bath or just in the sun – and then jumping into freezing cold water.
Many people are unsure if going from hot to cold when having a shower or jumping into a cold bath after a sauna session is healthy.
It’s actually called ‘contrast therapy’ or ‘hot-cold therapy’ and the good news is you no longer have to worry.
Contrast therapy is actually an effective way to alleviate pain and stiffness in our body, especially if we’re exercising regularly. We’ll outline a little more about this therapy below.
What is contrast therapy?
Contrast therapy (also known as hot cold therapy) uses alternating hot and cold baths to create an intense pumping effect in our blood vessels. The alternating baths are repeated several times over a period of around 20 minutes.
Hot and cold treatment has been used by experts for more than 2,000 years and is effective for relieving pain, muscle stiffness, and inflammation. When used correctly, contrast therapy can also hasten the healing of physical injuries.
So you may be wondering ‘how does contrast therapy work’?
Well, the most basic procedure for contrast therapy involves using warm and cold water baths. Traditional contrast therapy uses the following steps:
1. immerse the body in warm water (38-40°C) for 10 minutes,
2. transfer it to a cold water bath (8-10°C) for one minute,
3. return to warm water for 4 minutes
4. immerse in cold water for 1 minute
5. repeat the third and fourth steps until a total of 20 to 30 minutes have passed, depending on the patient’s comfort and needs
Benefits of contrast therapy
Jumping into an ice bath after spending time in a traditional or infrared sauna may present a variety of benefits if the procedure is done properly. Same when having a so-called ‘contrast shower’, and changing the temperature from hot to cold .We’ll outline some of the advantages to contrast therapy below.
Exercise and sports are great for the health, but they may result in unwanted muscle pains. The pain that you feel after working out is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). You can also get DOMS after doing sports or activities that make you push your muscles to their limits, such as moving heavy furniture. DOMS brings about fatigue, discomfort, and stiffness, which may hamper your mobility.
Studies show that contrast therapy is useful in reducing fatigue and muscular stiffness. It is more effective if done at least 24 hours after a physically stressful activity. You can opt for a relaxing contrast therapy session after your workout, preventing DOMS from taking hold of your muscles.
Improved blood circulation
Contrast therapy has a significant affect on the body’s circulation. Warm water causes capillaries in your body to loosen up and expand whereas cold water makes them contract. This alternate warm and cold therapy produces a pumping action, which allows more blood to flow around your body.
Experts believe that this helps to decrease swelling and inflammation around sore and injured body parts. Decreasing swelling can help to relieve pain, increase mobility, and recover more quickly from injuries.
There are many studies about contrast therapy and how it helps athletes, but non-athletes may also benefit from it. Improving circulation helps oxygen reach your organs and limbs much faster, improving your overall feeling of wellness. Proper circulation also helps your body remove toxins much faster.
Being sore and tired limits your movements drastically. You won’t be able to perform your best if your body is simply not in good condition. Contrast therapy helps you get back on your feet faster so that you’ll be ready for that workout or training session in no time.
It has numerous physical benefits that allow your body to move without the hassle of pain, fatigue, inflammation, and soreness. Contrast therapy lso helps to improve blood flow, which gets oxygen to your cells faster. Oxygen helps cells heal faster and prevents further damage.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process wherein it increases blood flow to the affected area so oxygen, white blood cells, and nutrients can reach it faster.
However, prolonged inflammation may cause discomfort and further damage. Some fluids may leak into the surrounding tissue, causing the area to swell and become tender.
Contrast therapy blocks certain pathways involved with inflammation, helping your body to heal more efficiently.
Reduced lactic acid buildup
When you exercise, your body breaks down glucose for energy with the help of oxygen. There are some instances wherein you don’t have enough oxygen in your cells to break down glucose. In this case, glucose is converted to lactic acid, which can build up in your bloodstream and cause muscle soreness. Explosive exercises such as lifting, sprinting, and jumping are more likely to cause lactic acid buildup. To prevent lactic acid buildup, you can start with aerobic exercises to get your cells oxygenated faster. If that doesn’t work, you can also try to recover using contrast therapy. Research suggests that contrast therapy decreases blood lactic acid concentrations, most likely because it increases oxygenation in cells.
Management of chronic conditions
Contrast therapy isn’t just for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. It may also be used to alleviate a number of health conditions, such as:
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Ankylosing spondylitis
Is going from hot to cold water safe?
Yes, it is completely safe when performed correctly. Contrast therapy has been around for millennia and has been the subject of many studies in today’s society. Modern medicine has been applying contrast therapy as a treatment for physiological ailments for more than 70 years.
That being said, keep in mind that all forms of therapy are safest and most effective when done by a trained professional. Contrast therapy performed by experts is safe because they can monitor your vital signs and adjust the therapy as needed based on what is comfortable for you. Be wary of inexperienced providers or do-it-yourself home treatments.
Try contrast therapy in Sydney
Hot cold contrast therapy in Sydney uses cryotherapy chambers and infrared saunas to give you a rejuvenating experience. Jumping in a cryo chamber, then a sauna and then a refreshing cold sauna is how we like to do it. Many types of contrast therapy only use water baths that are big enough for one limb, but here at Cryo Spa Clinics, we offer you a whole-body experience to invigorate all your cells at once.
Our experts at Cryo Spa Clinics are trained to provide you only the best therapeutic care for your needs. Give us a call today at 02 8964 7951 or schedule an appointment. We look forward to giving you your most memorable and refreshing contrast therapy experience.