If you’re in sports long enough you will eventually become injured in some way, shape, or form. A common treatment for sports injuries, such as a sprained ankle, is contrast baths, other wise termed Hydrotherapy. All of us has seen those big silver tubs in the locker room of our gyms or training areas and wondered what they really were for. Well there is a use for them and it will help you whether you’re injured or not.
Contrast baths are used from high school level athletes to the professional level. They can help reduce the pain caused from a heavy session in the gym or a hard practice on the mat. Some athletes prefer using the contrast bath before they train to get the blood flowing while some prefer to use it after. Either way can work for you. Here is how.
Fill two tubs, one filled with hot water and the other filled with cold water. The temperature of the tubs should be about 55F/13C for the cold and for the hot tub make it as hot as you can handle. Now get into the cold water first and flex your muscles slowly and rotate your joints in small movements as best you can in the tub. Do this for 2 minutes. Then get out of the cold tub, transfer to the hot tub and do the same as before. But for only a time period of 30 seconds. Rotate back and forth for a total of 15 minutes ending in the cold tub. If you do not have access to these big tubs you can always do this at your home. Of course you need two tubs to do this technique but if you want to recover quicker you will do it.
If you only have one tub, you can still manage the hot/ cold baths. This method will be used during a shower. Simply use cold water first then after 2 minutes change it to hot water and so on. This can get boring doing this for 15 minutes, but the benefits outweigh the boring times.
Changing from hot to cold makes the blood pump in and out of your body parts reducing inflammation. Blood vessels dilate in the hot water and constrict in the cold, forcing out the waste products causing the pain in the area of concern. This also increases the elasticity of your ligaments for added flexibility.
Contrast baths are also effective in helping tendonitis in the hands, forearms and elbows. I use them regularly after my grip workouts. Instead of using a full tub I use two small buckets. I put ice water in one and hot water in the other. Using the same methods as described above, I recover a lot quicker and am able to train more often for more progress in my training.
Give it a try. If you are in fact injured and this method does not help or improve your injury, go to the doctor and get it checked out. This is not a cure-all for injuries; it is simply a method of recovery.