Go between our Ice Bath (4 degrees) and Hot Tub (40 degrees)
Contrast hydrotherapy involves alternating hot and cold-water treatment. The practice has many fans, including athletes who say it gets them back in the game faster.
The key to contrast bath therapy is in the rapid changes produced in your circulatory system when you go from very warm water to very cold water.
When you submerge part or all your body in cold water, small blood vessels called capillaries respond to the cold by getting smaller. This is known as vasoconstriction.
When you immerse yourself in warm water, the opposite happens. Your blood vessels open. This is known as vasodilation.
Different water temperatures also cause changes in how fast your heart beats. Studies show that cold water causes your heart rate to speed up, while hot water slows it down.
When you rapidly alternate between hot-water and cold-water immersions, your blood vessels open and close in a pulsing, pump-like motion. Some proponents think this pumping action can help relieve various injury symptoms.
Research supports the use of contrast hydrotherapy to lessen muscle fatigue and to decrease pain, swelling, and lactic acid build-up following intense exercise.
Reduces fatigue - Athletes might find that contrast hydrotherapy helps alleviate post-game fatigue. A 2017 meta-analysis of the research found that contrasting hot and cold baths helped team sports players recover from fatigue 24-48 hours after the game. Immersion in cold water alone didn’t provide the same benefit.
Decreases muscle soreness - Intense exercise causes damage to your muscle fibres. But you might not feel sore until a day or so later. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Researchers measured both DOMS and muscle weakness in elite athletes following strenuous workouts. They found that contrast bath therapy improved both the soreness and weakness better than passive resting alone. Two factors should be noted. First, researchers found that the best results happened when the hot water temperature was lower than 104°F (40°C). Second, other popular therapies, such as immersion in cold water alone, were about as effective at relieving these symptoms as contrast bath therapy was.
Removes excess lactic acid - When you exercise vigorously, lactic acid builds up in your body. The accumulation of lactic acid is normal, but it can make you feel tired and sore. You can ease the symptoms of lactic acid build-up in your body by resting, drinking water, taking a magnesium supplement, and following a few other simple protocols. Two studies conducted in 2007 showed that contrast bath therapy can also help decrease the lactic acid in your body, helping you recover from the soreness and fatigue of strenuous exercise.
Decreases swelling - When you get injured, part of your body’s normal inflammatory response is a rush of fluid and white blood cells to the injured area. The build-up of this fluid can exert pressure on the injury and cause pain. There is some evidence that contrast baths reduce swelling. In a 2016 study involving 115 people with ankle sprains, contrast hydrotherapy lessened swelling around 3 days post-injury.