Hot and Cold Therapy: Beneficial or Needless Self-Torture?
It is a known fact that heat or cold is a very common home remedy for pain. Whether in a form of a heating pad, liniments, it is the go-to pain relief choice. Heat and cold are commonly used for treating injuries to specific areas of the body.
But what about heating and cooling your entire body? We hear a lot about athletes soaking in a tub of ice cubes after a big game. Gyms featuring saunas to attract clients who go crazy using them after workouts.
Are these helpful in any meaningful way? Or is it just a silly fad without any merit?
Biohackers have promoted these ideas over the last few years. Let’s see if there’s any substance to their advice.
Spending time in a sauna regularly has its benefits:
Good for Stress Relief. Sitting in a sauna can feel wonderful. It’s stress-relieving and cleansing, especially after you wash the sweat off.
Facilitates the Formation of Heat Shock Proteins. Excessive heat stimulates specific genes to create heat shock proteins.
● These are helpful in eliminating free radicals in the body. Heat shock proteins can also repair damaged proteins.
Spending time in a sauna can prolong your life. Research has shown that spending some time in a sauna at least four days a week may reduce the incidence of several causes of death. These include fatal cardiovascular disease, coronary disease, and sudden cardiac death.
Endurance and aerobic capacity increase. Red blood cell counts and blood plasma volume increase with regular sauna use.
Increased circulation. Heat causes your blood vessels to dilate and increases your heart rate. This can help injuries to heal faster and improve mobility in joints affected by arthritis.
Keep in mind that normal sauna temperatures are just fine. There’s no reason to crank up the heat in hopes of gaining greater benefits. No benefit is worth risking your life. Be reasonable.
A nice cold bath might not be that appealing but learn the advantages before making decisions!
A 10-minute ice bath can be beneficial, too:
Reduces inflammation. Exposure to cold reduces inflammation. This is why you might ice a sprained ankle. It turns out that if you cool the entire body, the anti-inflammatory effect affects the entire body.
● An ice bath can reduce pain more effectively than just icing a specific area of the body.
● Many diseases, including heart disease, are believed to be at least partially due to systemic inflammation in the body. Regular ice baths may reduce the likelihood of developing many diseases.
It can enhance the immune system. White blood cell counts increase after spending time in an ice bath. This has been shown to reduce the likelihood of getting sick.
May reduce depression. Some studies have shown that regular ice baths can enhance mood.
The term “ice bath” is a bit of a misnomer. The most commonly researched temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which feels colder than you might think. It’s possible that your tap water is that cold. The time spent in the cold water was 8-12 minutes.
Maybe you don’t have access to a sauna or a cold bath. Will a hot tub, hot shower, or cold shower work just as well?
There’s not a lot of research on the benefits of these other options. It seems reasonable to assume that these could be viable substitutes, but there are no guarantees. It’s not too hard to find a health club that has a sauna, and you can take a cold bath or shower at home.
There are definitely health benefits to safely exposing yourself to hot and cold temperatures.
You may have also heard about the use of contrast bath, which is the use of contrasting temperatures that can shock the body due to the alternating action of vasoconstriction and vasodilation.
When the body is subjected to cold and capillaries constrict, it is called vasoconstriction. This also happens when an ice pack is used over bruises or inflamed joints. When heat is used, blood vessels open up, called vasodilation, dilating blood vessels. This is consistent with the physiological of heat: expansion.
In using hot or cold therapy, it is just important to remember: HEAT expands, COLD constricts. For muscle spasms, cramps, heat proves to provide relief than cold for already tight muscles. For inflammation, on the other hand, cold works better as it decreased warmth in inflamed joints or body parts.
The stress that these situations create stimulates the body to make healthy adaptations.
However, as with all things, it’s important to be safe and reasonable! If you use hot and cold therapy safely, they can benefit your health.