What is Contrast Bath Therapy and Is it Right for You?
If you’ve ever had to go through physical therapy for an injury, you might have been instructed to use contrast baths as part of your treatment and recovery plan. But what is a contrast bath and why should you do it?
A contrast bath involves treating the affected area by alternating hot and cold water. This same principle can be applied to the entire body. The cold water causes your heart rate to speed up, while warm causes it is to slow down and relax.
Benefits of Contrast Bath Therapy
Studies show the use of contrast baths helped sports players to recover from fatigue much faster than using cold baths alone. This same study found that the use of contrast baths help in treating muscle soreness and weakness, removing excess lactic acid, and decreasing pain and swelling.
Often, intense exercise can cause damage to your muscle fibers, and a buildup of lactic acid, but soreness that results don’t always set in until a day or two later. The researchers in this study found that contrast bath therapy improved both soreness and weakness better than resting alone.
When you get injured, your body sends white blood cells and fluids to the injured area, which is why injuries often result in swelling and then more pain due to the extra pressure. This is another condition that is commonly treated by contrast baths.
Commonly Treated Conditions
There are numerous benefits to contrast bath therapy and a number of conditions that are sometimes treated using this method. Some of these conditions include:
· Acute injuries to limbs
· Low circulation/blood flow
· Muscle spasms and cramps
· Repetitive strain activities such as sports injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome
· Chronic pain
· Soft tissue trauma
· Sprains and muscle injuries
How Contrast Bath Therapy Works
Contrast bath therapy is a form of hydrotherapy that is more than 2,000 years old and is often used by physical therapists, physical trainers, and sports injury doctors. This is done by submerging the injured area in water that is between 98-110 degrees Fahrenheit warm, and then submerging the same area in cold water that is around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place your body part (or entire body) in the warm water for three to four minutes, then switch to the cool water for about one minute. This sequence should be repeated for 15-30 minutes. For more serious injuries, this might be repeated multiple times a week or month or regularly for an extended length of time until the injury has fully healed.
If you are working with a physical therapist, they might instruct you to perform gentle movements or exercises while you’re in the water to help increase circulation to that specific body part.
Can You Treat with Contrast Baths at Home?
Though hydrotherapy has been used for more than 2,000 years, Contrast baths are not necessarily safe for every condition, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider before trying it at home.
This is where spa ownership comes in handy. Set your spa temperature for the warm water treatment, and adjust your time there according to your doctor’s recommendation, then follow up with a quick dip in a pool, tub, or shower of cool water. Just be sure to stop if you get light-headed or begin to have other side effects, and be sure to finish your therapy in warm water to keep circulation going strong.
To really make an impact, while in the hot tub, you can utilize the Bullfrog Spas JetPak that is best suited for treating your area of tension or injury. For instance, if you have neck pain, you might opt to use the Neck Blaster JetPak, or for back pain, you might try one of the deep muscle or kneading massage JetPaks.
What are the Risks?
There has been some research on hydrotherapy and its usefulness in treating injuries, but the scientific information is limited. Keep in mind that the change between cold and hot can cause light-headedness or vertigo. In addition, be sure to use clean, uncontaminated water to avoid infections or other skin or bacterial issues. Other potential risks include elevated blood pressure and heart rate.
Whether you’re an athlete who needs regular muscle treatment or an office executive who suffers from tension headaches (or a plethora of other potential ailments) contrast bath therapy can be highly beneficial to you.
As a precaution, treatment should not be given until 48 hours have passed since the injury.
Regardless of the reason you are considering treatment using contrast baths, a hot tub or spa comes with a number of other health benefits that will help to ensure that your body is working at an optimum possible level.