Contrast Bath, aka Hot And Cold Therapy

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Immediate Therapeutic Benefits For Muscle Pain, Swelling And Inflammation!

In my career as a Certified Athletic Therapist, I have seen the immediate therapeutic benefits of contrast baths therapy in many Varsity and Professional athletes. Contrast bath also known as “hot/cold immersion therapy is a treatment method used to decrease muscle soreness, swelling, and inflammation.

Contrast baths can be done at home to treat inflammation and pain.

Contrast baths are used as a standard part of many rehab facilities for treating musculoskeletal injuriesespecially with repetitive strain or overuse injuries. These types of injuries may need a longer rest and recovery time and thus would greatly benefit from this technique, because it helps speed up the healing process without aggravating the injury site.

Benefits of Contrast Bath:

The theory behind contrast bath therapy is that the warm water causes vasodilation of the blood flow in the limb or body followed by the cold water which causes vasoconstriction, increasing local blood circulation. Additionally, the lymph vessels contract when exposed to cold, and relax in response to heat. This creates a “pumping action” that forces circulation.

The lymph system, unlike the circulatory system, lacks a central pump. Alternating hot and cold, lymph vessels dilate and contract to essentially “pump” and move stagnant fluid out of the area. This positively effects the inflammation process, which is the body’s primary mechanism for healing damaged tissue.

It is recommended to talk to you Medical Doctor or other Health Care Professional before you use Hot/cold therapy at home. In general, this type of therapy is not recommended for patients with cardiac conditions, open wounds, high blood pressure, cold or heat allergies. It is not recommend to use Contrast Bath Therapy on young children or elderly individuals.

Hot/Cold Therapy Can Also Provide Therapeutic Benefits for….

  • plantar fasciitis
  • shin splints
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • tennis elbow
  • Achilles tendinitis

The Equipment needed: 

You will need access to hot water and containers for either your arms (carpal tunnel pain) and/or feet (sprained ankles). The pictures below give you an idea of what kind of containers work best. You could probably purchase these at a Home Depot or Canadian Tire.

Time and Temperature

  • The hot bath should be anywhere from 100 to 111 F (38-43 C). The hotter you can take, the better but make sure you can tolerate the temperature. 4 minutes or less.
  • The cold bath should be anywhere from 50 to 61 F (10-16 C). Use ice cubes to get the water cold. Most people cannot take longer than about 1minute of cold. Again, your tolerance is important.

The Process

Get two bowls, buckets or storage bins which will fit the part of your body which needs the treatment. Fill one bucket with cold water and the other with hot.

  1. Wash and clean the area of skin of any oils and dirt.
  2. Submerge your body part in the hot water for 4 minutes.
  3. Then submerge your body part in the cold water for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Repeat this process at least 5 times if possible. The whole process should not take more than 20 minutes total.
  5. There’s a debut as to if you should finish the cycle in hot water or cold. Since hot water brings blood to the surface of the skin, I recommend finishing in cold water.





For your hands something like this works because, you want the water to come up just pass, your elbow.

For pain relief and to reduce inflammation use contrast bath






For your feet and ankles something like this works best.


Use contrast bath to help treat pain symptoms and inflammation.








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