If you are on social media I'm sure you have seen people cranking up the sauna to 180 degrees followed by a quick cold plunge session, but have you ever wondered why? In this article we are going to cover contrast therapy and why athletes and biohackers are using hot and cold therapy to boost their metabolism and speed up recovery.
Contrast therapy, also known as hot and cold therapy is a type of hydrotherapy that involves switching between hot and cold temperatures to promote healing within the body. This form of therapy has been around for decades and has various forms, including saunas, hot tubs, cold showers, and ice baths.
The Benefits of Contrast Therapy
Instead of teaching you how to use a sauna or a cold plunge, we thought it would be more helpful to go through the benefits of contrast therapy. Below are the top six reasons we use contrast therapy and the benefits to back them up!
Reducing inflammation: One of the most common reasons athletes use contrast therapy is its ability to reduce inflammation. When we experience an injury or inflammation, the body sends white blood cells to the area to promote healing. Contrast therapy can help reduce these symptoms by increasing blood flow and reducing swelling. Temperatures below 59 Ferinheight help restrict blood vessels which directly helps reduce inflammation. As you can imagine the heat does the exact opposite. Temperatures above 59 Fahrenheit can increase blood flow and can reduce swelling or pain in inflamed areas of the body.
Relieving pain: Pain relief is also a very common use for contrast therapy. Raising and lowering the temperature can increase the release of endorphins, also known as natural painkillers. The heat helps to relax muscles and improve flexibility, while the cold temperature helps numb the area, reducing pain and discomfort. This can be helpful for athletes recovering from injury or suffering from chronic illness.
Improving circulation: Another significant benefit of contrast therapy is its ability to improve circulation. Going from sauna to cold plunge can cause your blood vessels to expand and contract, which increases blood flow to the affected which can speed up the healing process. Improved circulation goes hand in hand with reducing the inflammation in your body which is why contrast therapy is most commonly used by athletes.
Speeding up recovery: Contrast therapy can help speed up recovery from injuries by reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and improving circulation. As an athlete myself I am always looking for a way to heal the body faster and reduce any risk of complications. That is also why you’ll see contrast therapy prescribed for injuries or surgeries to reduce the recovery time.
Enhancing athletic performance: Contrast therapy has been shown to enhance athletic performance by improving muscle recovery and reducing muscle soreness. Athletes often use this therapy to reduce inflammation and speed up their recovery time between workouts. Lastly, hot and cold therapy will boost recovery which will keep athletes in the game longer and directly improves athletic performance.
Reducing stress: Finally, contrast therapy can help reduce stress by promoting relaxation and reducing tension in the muscles. Hopping in the sauna can help relax the muscles while hopping in the cold plunge will reduce any tension and promote mental clarity and relaxation. I can’t speak for everyone but contrast therapy will most likely improve your overall mental health and physical well-being.
Contrast therapy or hot and cold therapy can be a safe and effective tool that can produce many benefits when used safely. From reducing inflammation and pain to improving circulation and athletic performance, contrast therapy has something to offer everyone.
Want to learn more about the benefits of cold therapy specifically? Check out this article!