Taylor Elizabeth - Oct 15 2022
Contrast Therapy Using Infrared Saunas and Cold Plunges
There has been a recent surge in the popularity of hot/cold contrast therapy. Hot/cold contrast therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is an ancient healing method that involves alternating between a cold plunge and an infrared sauna to promote various benefits, including accelerated recovery and reduced inflammation. This type of contrast therapy has been used for many years in healing practices around the world. For example, Finnish people have long practiced hot/cold contrast therapy by alternating between rolling in freshly fallen snow then warming up with a cup of coffee or tea around a fire. While it may seem counterintuitive to some, studies have shown that switching between temperatures can increase blood circulation and reduce inflammation– both important factors for avoiding injury or recovering from one.
After heat, the body's response is to cool itself down
After the heat, when you get out of your sauna and plunge into an ice bath, your body's response is to cool itself down. Once you're out of the sauna and in the ice bath, your blood vessels begin to narrow (vasoconstriction) and that causes your body temperature to drop. This reaction is opposite of what happens during vasodilation—the widening of blood vessels—and as a result it also helps calm inflammation by reducing swelling in tissues.
There are four main types of anti-inflammatory therapies that can be used for this purpose:
1. Cold therapy (such as ice baths)
2. Heat therapy (such as infrared saunas)
3. Compression garments or wraps
4. Massage therapy with oil or lotion on sore muscles.
Each type has its own unique benefits but for Infrared Therapy we've found that combining both cold plunges with infrared saunas can provide the most effective results by stimulating multiple biological responses through different areas contributing together towards overall recovery from injury faster while also lowering cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure levels since they both lower stress hormone levels too."
The body achieves this through vasodilation of blood vessels and sweating
These processes occur when the body experiences a rise in temperature: vasodilation, vasoconstriction, sweating. Vasodilation is the widening of blood vessels; it enables more oxygen and nutrients to reach your cells. Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of blood vessels; it limits how much heat can be transferred from your core to your skin's surface (where we lose heat through sweat). When you sweat, this cools off the body by transferring water from inside your cells to the outside (where it evaporates).
The net result of all these reactions is that your body is able to maintain homeostasis—a constant internal environment—in response to external changes like hot weather or emotional stressors by keeping its temperature within set parameters.
The body's response to heat is to cool itself down. It achieves this through vasodilation of blood vessels and sweating. As the body cools, it diverts blood flow away from areas such as inflamed joints or injured muscles that are already in a state of inflammation. This diversion of blood increases the healing rate of these tissues while also decreasing any pain they may be experiencing by preventing further swelling and inflammation.
Post-Sauna, the body undergoes vasoconstriction and healing blood flow is restored to injured areas
The body responds to heat by vasoconstriction, which is the constriction of blood vessels. The purpose of this is to reduce the amount of blood flow to your skin so that you don't overheat. When you're in a sauna or hot tub and your body starts to sweat, you're actually experiencing vasodilation—the widening of your blood vessels. This allows more blood flow across the surface of your skin and can help cool down your tissues quickly under extreme temperatures.
After a sauna session, researchers found that there was an increase in heart rate and blood pressure due to decreased peripheral vascular resistance (or PVR). This means that less resistance was needed for cardiac output due to reduced peripheral resistance among other things like increased stroke volume (amounts of oxygenated/deoxygenated blood) per heartbeat during exercise due to increased cardiac output rates during exercise due to lower PVRs within our circulatory system after using contrast therapy methods such as cold plunges or saunas!
Chill down in an Ice Barrel
Cold Plunge therapy also has benefits specific to recovery
Cold plunge therapy, also known as cold water immersion, is the process of immersing a body part in water at a temperature that causes pain. The benefits of cold plunge therapy include helping with sore muscles and joints, recovery from injuries, recovery from surgery and illness, and even aging.
Cold plunge therapy can help treat your soreness by stimulating blood flow to the area you are treating which in turn promotes healing. It also causes vasoconstriction which can reduce inflammation on top of being an overall stress reliever!
When exposed to the elements of contrast therapy, blood flow is quickly diverted to the internal organs, lungs, heart and brain. In doing so:
- Lactic acid is flushed out of your muscles and into your heart. This flushes toxins out of your body and reduces swelling in your joints and muscles.
- Your skin temperature rises dramatically when you enter an infrared sauna—and since heat rises, it also has a positive effect on the surface layer of your skin (epidermis).
- Once inside a cold plunge or bathtub filled with ice water for just three minutes or so, you'll begin to see major changes in circulation as well as increased metabolism within those three minutes alone!
A cold plunge flushes lactic acid out of muscles post-workout for a quicker muscle recovery
Cold plunges remove lactic acid more quickly than hot saunas, which can help reduce muscle soreness and cramping. Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism, meaning it is produced when we move our muscles but don't have enough oxygen to burn the energy from our food. When you start exercising, your body starts burning more carbohydrates for fuel instead of fat because it's easier for your cells to access carbs.
The problem with this strategy is that carbohydrate stores are limited, so once those are gone, lactic acid starts building up in your muscles as you keep going hard at it without adequate oxygen intake (a condition called anaerobic respiration). This buildup can cause muscle soreness and cramping post-workout or other activity like running a marathon or playing too much tennis on the weekend!
One of the most important physiological responses to an injury is vasoconstriction. The body’s natural response to injury is to decrease blood flow in an effort to reduce swelling and inflammation, which helps prevent further damage. When you experience this reaction as a result of your own actions (like lifting heavy weights), it’s called “acute muscle soreness.” When it happens as a result of another person or thing (like falling down stairs), it's called “fracture pain.”
The good news is that vasoconstriction is part of the healing process and can help relieve pain, reduce bleeding after surgery and boost athletic performance by increasing blood flow to muscles during exercise—but only when done correctly!
Use Peak Flow resources to help with your stress & anxiety and more!
Hot/Cold contrast or Contrast Therapy can help with these two primary
- Vasodilation and vasoconstriction (both important for recovery and healing)
- Vasodilation helps with inflammation and pain
Now that you know how it works, why not give contrast therapy a try the next time you’re at the gym or spa? It’s easy to do, and the benefits are very real. As always, check with your doctor before doing any sort of exercise or therapy if you have serious injuries or medical issues. But if you’re in good health (or even just looking for a way to get healthier), then contrast therapy is definitely worth trying out!
Article credit : Taylor Elizabeth