Contrast Bathing - Using Heat and Ice

This technique goes back hundreds of years, used to decrease pain and increase the circulation to areas of injury and restricted blood flow. Along with improved circulation that flushes away the toxins and waste products trapped in the tissues, it will bring essential nutrients and increased oxygen to the muscles and surrounding tissues. Aiding in the healing process in the presence of trauma or repetitive strain.

Common Uses

This is a great treatment any time there is non acute injury to limbs or joints. When there are conditions of reduced blood flow, like hyper toned muscles that are cramping or in spasm. This is great as preventative healthcare for repetitive strain injuries such as carpel tunnel, thoracic outlet syndrome. Diabetes, headaches, migraines, and numbing and tingling in hands and arms. If you are unsure of what your condition is you should seek proper diagnosis by your health care provider.

Contrasting Basics

Here are a few principles behind this form of hydrotherapy

  1. The greater the difference in temperature, the larger the effect to the local tissues.
  2. The more often you contrast bath your body, the greater the physical response to each treatment you will have. (Like exercising your muscles only with contrast bathing you are strengthening your vascular system, leading to greater control over blood flow and local nutrition.

Instructions:

Contrast Bathing for Arms

  • Fill two tubs or use a double sink you can that you can fit your arms deeply into it, one with very hot water and one with very cold water.
  • The basic recipe is to soak your arms in the hot water for 3 minutes and then switch immediately to the cold and soak for 1 minute. Repeat this 3 times
  • Always start with hot water and end with the cold. When switching between hot and cold you may wish to add more hot water on the second or third round. **If you add more hot water be sure to keep one hand stirring while adding the hot water so you don’t increase the temperature too much and burn yourself as your arms will be desensitized from being in the cold water.
  • To increase the effect of the contrast bathing on your arms try adding ice or ice pack to the cold water.
  • Another good alternative to using water is to use a heating pad or hot wet towel alternating with an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel or a dampened frozen wash cloth.

This information is not a substitute for getting proper medical advice. If you experience and increase in pain and other symptoms seek appropriate medical attention.