What’s the difference between heat and cold therapies and when and how should you use them?
The Health Benefits of Heat Therapy
While cold therapies will claim all sorts of internal and external benefits, heat therapy is best for targeting specific areas of the body where you’re trying to reduce pain, soothe muscles, and ease tension and tightness. There are many different forms of heat therapy, from hot water bottles you can use at home to saunas and infrared light.
Heat therapies are best-suited for chronic pain that requires easing muscles. It shouldn’t be used directly after an injury, because it promotes more blood flow to the area and helps bring fresh blood cells to the surface of your skin.
Dry saunas have been linked to more and more health benefits, including heart health and maintaining muscle mass. Plus, for many, it’s relaxing for the body and mind, which we love.
Believed to be even better than traditional dry saunas, infrared (especially those with both far and near infrared) are great for detoxification (through sweating), reducing stress and fatigue, encouraging better sleep, weight loss, increased metabolism, immune system support and the appearance of cellulite.
A great option for work-out recovery, improved circulation, reducing joint stiffness, skin health, respiratory function, reducing stress and burning calories and even reducing overall blood pressure.
The Health Benefits of Cold Therapy
Research has shown that dropping our body temperature can help with everything from improving our lymphatic system to reducing inflammation, aiding weight loss, and boosting our immune system.
If you’re interested in the myriad health benefits that exposing ourselves to the cold can provide, you might want to look into the following.
As mentioned in our Wellness Therapies post, cryotherapy is a super-fast way to send a jolt of health benefits to your body. After stepping into a temperature-controlled chamber, you’ll become surrounded by nitrogen gas as the temperature around you can plummet to around -300 degrees Fahrenheit. After about 3 minutes, you’ll step out and allow your body to become re-acclimated to normal room temperature. As this occurs, your blood flow improves, antioxidant levels increase, and skin conditions like dermatitis and acne can improve. It can also have a positive impact on your mood with the release of adrenaline and endorphins.
If you’re lucky, you might have a cold plunge pool at your gym or spa. The hardest part about this form of cold therapy is building up the courage to take the plunge. But once you do, you’ll not only be helping your circulatory system and speeding up your metabolism, you’ll also feel like a total badass for being able to withstand freezing cold temperatures, even if it’s only for a minute.
Hot and Cold Combined
Contrast bathing has been gaining popularity as a treatment for athletes and physical therapists. Going from hot to cold in succession can help decrease pain, swelling and muscle spasm, control inflammation, improve your range of motion, and increase muscle strength.