Contrast Therapy

Contrast therapy uses both Cold therapy and heat therapy by alternating from cold (ice) pack to heat pack or by using contrast baths treatment involves using both warm whirlpool and cold whirlpool on the same body part during treatment. Your injured body part is repeatedly moved from a heat therapy modality to cold therapy modality. You typically spend about one to three minutes in each bath, and a typical treatment lasts for 15 to 20 minutes. 

The theory of contrast therapy is to create a rapid opening and closing of the arteries around the body part being treated, thus causing both vasoconstriction and vasodilation. This creates a pumping effect in the body part, which helps to decrease swelling around the injured site by flushing out the inflammation in that area. Most importantly, end the treatment cycle on ice (unless you’re treating chronic conditions, such as recurring injuries, tightness, or muscle spasms). By ending on ice, the vessels will be narrowed and will help keep inflammation from re-entering the area.

Following approximately the first 3-5 days of an acute injury, once bleeding has stopped and there are no signs of inflammation, you may wish to alternate cold and heat treatments, thus use contrast therapy.

Some of the benefits of contrast therapy include:

  • Improved Circulation
  • Decreased Swelling
  • Reduced Inflammation
  • Improvement in Muscle Strains
  • Increased Range of Motion
  • Reduced Muscle Soreness
  • Increased Energy & Alertness
  • Elevated Mood


A contrast bath can be done as follows:

  • Immerse the resting limb in warm (38°C–40°C) water first for 10 minutes.
  • Follow by immersing the limb in cold (8°C–10°C) water for one minute.
  • Then, dip the limb in hot water for four minutes alternated with a one-minute bath in the cold water.
  • Repeat the four- and one-minute immersion alternation three more times.
  • Undertake the whole process in 30 minutes.‌


Although taking a contrast bath may benefit you, not everyone is suitable for this type of treatment. Individuals with the following conditions may be advised against undergoing this therapy. Some contraindications are High blood pressure (hypertension), open wounds, untreated or infected wounds, diabetes, poorly managed epilepsy, and/or hydrophobia (the fear of water).

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