Contrast Baths – DO Try This at Home!

By | November 22, 2014

Contrast baths reduce swelling and aids recovery from painful lactic acid buildup caused by excessive exercise.  At Accelerate Physical Therapy, we have developed an application of this technique that is easy to apply at home, and surprisingly effective in comparison to (an in addition to) every other modality we use clinically.  We use it extensively for ankle, foot, elbow and hand conditions to reduce edema (swelling), effusion (excessive joint fluid), pain and ecchymosis (bruising).

Try this (very inexpensive treatment) at home:

Fill up two basins or buckets – one hot and one cold – with water from your faucets.  Soak the effected part in cold water (preferably first and last) for 2-3 minutes, then alternate 2-3 minutes in hot water, 2-3 minutes cold, 2-3 minutes hot water, and finally 2-3 more minutes cold – for a total of  10-15 minutes of treatment.

Two dishpans are easy to find in many stores for less than 5 dollars each. Fill one with cold water and one with hot water from your kitchen faucet.

The use of heat immediately after an injury may cause MORE bruising and swelling.  Therefore, do not use HOT water until 2-3 days after the injury.

Hot water causes vasodilation (widening) of the blood vessels.  Cold water causes vasoconstriction (active narrowing) of the blood vessels.  Alternating this response is therapeutic, and is effectively manipulated by the change of temperatures.  Opening the blood vessels when the injury is fresh will cause more blood to be spilled between tissues.  This blood causes the bruising seen (and not seen).  The less blood and protein substances that are released, the shorter the recovery time will be.  The more bleeding and therefore bruising, the more painful it can be, and the slower the recovery will be.  Use cold treatment, compression, elevation and apply Arnica Montana gel to the skin over the injury to treat the injury for the first 2-3 days.

Sprains, tendonitis, epicondylitis, contusions, and painful nerve conditions all have benefited from Contrast Baths here at Accelerate Physical Therapy, PC.  We strongly suggest that people use it to improve conditions that otherwise be slower to resolve.

Category: Treatment Uncategorized

About Paul O'Brian

CEO, Paul O’Brian founded Accelerate Physical Therapy , P.C. in 1989 in Arvada. Specializing in orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation over a 40-year-career, Paul is experienced in shoulder, knee, spine, foot/ankle, elbow, wrist and hand rehabilitation, quadriplegia, hemiplegia, multiple sclerosis, weakness and balance issues, and geriatric conditions, arthritis, functional decline, postural and pain problems, sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents, and workers’ compensation injuries. Paul O'Brian has been a youth sports coach for 25 years (swimming and diving, soccer, football and rugby). Paul has served on the Board of Directors for multiple Colorado non-profit Colorado corporations, including Colorado Physical Therapy Network (20 years), Rugby Colorado (5 years) and Tigers Rugby Football Club (20 years).