Heat or Cold: Which is Better with Contrast Therapy?
May 6, 2021 By Nancy Amon
It’s easy to cringe at the thought of having an iced cold shower. It definitely isn’t as soothing and “pacifying” as its warmer opposite. But why are more people turning to an ice bath, the Wim Hof method, and other forms of cold therapy?
Why are folks drawn to the wonders of contrast therapy, despite outdoor temperatures being cold or not? If you’ve been asking about these cold and hot treatments, then you’re at the right place.
What Exactly Is Contrast Therapy and What Can It Do For Your Wellbeing?
Contrast therapy, as the name suggests, is the use of two forms of temperatures, hot and cold. The use of cold and heat has long been a natural method of soothing sore muscles, aches, and pains in the body.
The therapy involves plunging the person into warm water and immediately thereafter, into cold water. In this way, the body’s effectively exposed to both the cold and hot.
Some studies also show that sore muscles can recover over a gradual time of cold water therapy. This may need a few sessions especially if the muscles are excessively tight and sore.
Hot vs cold water (vasoconstriction vs. vasodilation)
Coldwater and hot water treatment after workouts is an ideal way to naturally help the muscles to relax. If the muscles are tense and tight all the time, it could also progress into stress-related moods. In fact, stress can cause the muscles to become rigid and tight.
Why contrast baths work could be due to the direct impact that these extreme temperatures have on the body’s blood circulation. This is called “vasoconstriction” cold and “vasodilation” hot.
When immersed into freezing-cold water (vasoconstriction) via an ice bath or a cold shower, the arteries will constrict because of the cold. During this process, the heart will beat faster, blood pressure will rise and blood will flow slower.
The opposite happens in a hot shower because when immersed in hot water the blood vessels will dilate (vasodilation.) Furthermore, vasodilation slows down the heart rate and may decrease blood pressure through major blood vessels “arterioles”. Hot temperatures may also cause blood to flow faster because the vessels are wider.
Hot and Cold Therapy Benefits
There are many science-based hydrotherapy benefits that have some or other form of naturally helping the body with healing processes.
Contrast Therapy for the Heart
Because of its ability to alternate blood flow and contract and dilate arteries, it may be a good addition for patients trying to strengthen their heart health. In patients with cardiovascular disease, the therapy shows to lower the “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration LDL, while increasing the “good” cholesterol high-density lipoprotein HDL.
Managing cholesterol levels in this manner can be an addition to a complete heart-healthy lifestyle.
Both hot and cold have their respective benefits. Heat can speed up the healing process because the blood circulation is better and no longer flowing through constricted vessels.
Cold therapy may also speed up healing while reducing swelling and inflammation.
Other health benefits of cold and heat therapy may include:
- May help with managing tension in the body
- It may aid in lowering inflammation
- Could help to regulate body temperature by cooling down
- Cold therapy may help to menially relax or focus
- Ice Baths can lower anxiety and stress levels, especially after a long, hard day
- Cold therapy could serve as an analgesic by numbing the pain
Is It Safe To Use Hot and Cold Water Treatment?
Before taking the cold plunge, speak to a medical practitioner. Many athletes and people looking to incorporate cryotherapy into their wellness routine tend to work with someone during their sessions.
There are special breathing techniques that help focus people in the most extreme cold situations. Holotropic breathwork is also a common breathing technique when it comes to cold water therapy.
Disadvantages of Hot and Cold Treatments
While there are many benefits to contrast therapy, there are also some disadvantages.
Cons for cold therapy
- Extreme cold therapy like cryo chambers may result in ice burns, hypothermia, or frostbite if done irresponsibly
- It could also aggravate muscles and increase the spasming effects
- It could make the muscles tighter due to the tense state of the body
Cons for hot therapy
- The heat might increase the level of inflammation in the injured area
- High temperatures can risk skin tissue burns
- You may already be overheated after a tough workout and applying heat immediately after may have no effect
Do you want the cold therapy experience?
Ice Barrel is revolutionizing cold therapy for athletes and people looking to improve mental awareness, lower stress and anxiety levels, as well as, become more focused.
Plus, from the comfort of your home, you can enjoy affordable cryotherapy with little to no maintenance with your ice bath. It’s convenient, easy to use, and a full-body cold plunge experience.
The Invitation to Adventure
We are inviting you on an extraordinary adventure to explore the depths of your potential and experience the incredible results Ice Barrel will produce in your life. Not just for you, but for the ones you love most and the things you are most passionate about.
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