We’ve talked about the heat, and we’ve talked about the cold. Now what happens if we bring the two together?! Contrast therapy is rapidly changing from heat exposure to cold exposure and vice versa. When exposed to high levels of heat such as a sauna or a hot bath, your blood vessels open up, which is known as vasodilation. The opposite occurs in cold exposure such as a cold shower or an ice bath – small blood vessels called capillaries respond by getting smaller, or vasoconstriction. When you go from one to the other, it creates a pumping motion which may help relieve various injury symptoms, as it is stimulation without stress and can help create better circulation around injuries which can reduce inflammation. Although again, we need more research on this.
Interestingly, in a recent study of over 3000 people from Netherlands, those who practised contrast therapy during their daily shower were 30% less likely to call in sick—even throughout a whole year! In another study, contrast therapy was used for treating COVID-19. It indicated that participants increased their number of white blood cells, as well as improvements in other markers of a healthy immune system. The authors of that study concluded that contrast therapy is a promising avenue for study in relation to COVID-19 risk prevention.
There we have it, an introduction to all things hot and cold. There is so much knowledge to be gained around this topic, and it’s well worth investigating for yourself. In a world where it seems that health and wellness seems to cost the Earth, it’s reassuring to know there are things that you can start implementing today, at a relatively low cost, that can have a potentially profound impact on your health. Although, make sure you check with your healthcare provider before you embark on any new practice.