Contrast Bath for Pain Relief and Inflammation

Contrast Bath Or Hot And Cold Therapy Can Provide Immediate Therapeutic Benefits For Muscle Pain And Inflammation!

Before, I became a massage therapist, I worked as a P.T. assistant, it was here that we used contrast bath for pain relief and inflammation for carpal tunnel suffers. Contrast bath also known as “hot/cold immersion therapy is a method of treating muscle soreness, swelling, and inflammation. It was also used for treating joint injuries, mild sprains, symptoms of chronic pain and repetitive strain injuries.

Contrast baths can be done at home to treat inflammation and pain.It is also widely used by athletes to speed up muscle recovery after strenuous exercise. Cold water constricts the blood vessels (Vasoconstriction) and hot water opens up the blood vessels (Vasodilation) this creates a “pumping action” that forces circulation.

Contrast baths is used as a standard part of many rehab facilities for treating musculoskeletal injuries, especially with repetitive strain or overuse injuries. These types of injuries often need far more rest to recover from than people realize, and any technique for stimulating tissue healing without stressing it, is valuable in my book!

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.

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.

For those interested in the benefits of Hot/cold therapy, you should be in good physical health. If not, please check in with your doctor before starting this therapy or any therapies for that matter. This is not recommended for young children or very old adults. There are different arguments regarding the benefits of contrast bath, but as a massage therapist who constantly use his hands, I contribute my longevity (17 years now) to the benefits of contrast bath.

Hydrotherapy Can Also Provide Therapeutic Benefits for….

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

Knees are harder to do but if you have a shower head that you can move around it can be easily done, I know this first hand, because when I broke my left kneecap in a motorcycle accident this is how I did my contrast bath. I also came to realize during this time that your limb do not have to submerged in water to be effective just the hot and cold water touching your skin is enough, try it.

My Experience of contrast bath:

After leaving Richard Carr to become a full-time massage therapist, I took a massage job at the Capital Athletic Club in Downtown San Jose. I loved working here because it was one of the few places in the Bay Area that had a cold plunge and a hot tub. Working as a massage therapist can be very stressful and hard on your hands, wrists, shoulders and back muscles.

For repetitive stress injuries and inflammation use contrast bath

I made the decision back then that, I would not let my body become a victim of inflammation due to repetitive stress. So after every massage shift that, I worked, I took 10-20 minutes to do a contrast bath for my whole body not just my hands and wrists. 15 years and thousands of massages later, I still continue to do this process and I am very proud to say that, I do not have any problems with my hands. I took the proactive approach of not letting inflammation to ever build up.

The Equipment:

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 Orchard Supply Hardware planting pot/containers are the best to use.

Time and Temperature

  • The hot bath should be anywhere from 100 to 111 F. 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. 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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