A cold compress, when applied for a short period of time (less than 1 minute) has a stimulating effect. Initially, and very briefly, vasoconstriction of the vessels occurs, followed by a vasodilating effect. If applied for too long (greater than 1 minute) the effect will turn into a depressive, vasoconstricting effect.
With hot applications, the duration similarly impacts the outcomes of treatment. For short applications of heat (less than 5 minutes) we see a stimulating, vasodilating effect on the vessels. When this application extends past the 5 minutes, the vessels return to a state of stasis or lack of movement.
Since the goal of contrast hydrotherapy is to promote circulation of blood and lymph, water should be applied in the following fashion:
3 minutes of hot compress, followed by 30 seconds of cold compress. Repeat this cycle 3 times, always ending on the cold compress.
Two basins can be filled with hot and cold water, and washcloths that are wrung out after placing in the water are used to apply the water to the desired location. The hot water should be as hot as tolerated, being careful not to burn yourself. The cold water should also be as cold as tolerated.
Contrast hydrotherapy is one of many hydrotherapy techniques that can promote certain healing goals such as decreasing healing times and reduction of pain in an area. If you would like to learn more about how natural medicine techniques like hydrotherapy can benefit you, our clinicians can provide you with a personalized treatment and therapy goals.
Dr. Cheatum and Dr. Doize are Naturopathic doctors writing about health topics from a holistic viewpoint.