Contrast Therapy

What is ContraSt Therapy?

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 of all of 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 up.  This is known as vasodiliation.

Different water temperatures also cause changes in how fast your heart beats. Studies Trusted Source show that cold water causes your heart rate to speed up, while hot water slows it down.

So, how do these circulatory changes help you?

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 that this pumping action can help relieve various injury symptoms.


A Passive Therapy

Contrast bath therapy is considered a passive form of therapy.  Aside from some gentle motions you might perform, you aren’t actively moving or stretching your muscles as part of this treatment.

Research Trusted Source has shown than active therapies are generally more effective than passive ones, especially when it comes to pain management.  Passive interventions should be used as an adjunct to active therapies.  Even so, there is some evidence that contrast hydrotherapy could help with certain conditions and symptoms.  Here’s what the evidence has to say.

Reduces Fatigue

Athletes might find that contrast hydrotherapy helps alleviate post-game fatigue.

A 2017 meta-analysis Trusted Source of the research found  that contrasting hot and cold baths helped team sports players recover from fatigue 24-48 hours after the game.

Decreases Muscle Soreness

Intense exercise causes damage to your muscle fibers.  But you might not feel sore until a day or so later.  This is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Researches measured both DOMS and muscle weakness in elite athletes following strenuous workouts.  They found Trusted Source 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 a contrast bath therapy was.

Removes Excess Latic 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 buildup in your body by resting, drinking water, taking a magnesium supplement, and following a few other simple protocols.

Two Trust Source studies at Trusted Source 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 buildup 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, Trusted Source involving 115 people with ankle sprains, contrast hydrotherapy lessened swelling around 3 days post-injury.

The effects of cold water immersion and hot bathing releases many chemicals in the brain like Serotonin, Endorphins, and regulates the nervous system by activating the Vagus Nerve.

How To Do It

People who use contrast bath therapy usually do so with the help of a Cold Immersion coach or therapist or athletic trainer.

In our clinic, we are excited to have a variety of difference coaches guiding you through the experience.

Together with breathwork this experience is like no other.