How to safely try cold water therapy
Scroll on your Instagram and you might just see someone taking a cold plunge bath or visiting a spa with cryotherapy. But is cold water therapy effective? Or is it just a social media trend?
Dr. Edmund Fernandez, family medicine physician and medical director of telehealth at Aurora Health Care, explains that cold water therapy uses water to help improve your general health as well as health-related issues.
“Cold water therapy decreases inflammation after an injury and may assist with pain in muscles and joints. It may also help with emotional stress,” Dr. Fernandez says. “If someone learns how to cope well with cold water immersion, it may train the individual how to remain calm in stressful situations. Also, cold water therapy may help with your body’s overall circulation,” says Dr. Fernandez.
Here’s how to safely try cold water therapy at home, according to Dr. Fernandez:
- Take a cold bath with cold water and ice cubes: Be accompanied by someone and make sure to wear a long-sleeve top and shorts to help stabilize your body temperature. Cold water therapy in a bathtub should not last longer than 10 minutes.
- Try a cold shower: Initially start with warm water, and then stand under the cold water for one minute, and gradually increase to two to three minutes.
- Apply cold water on your face: Place your face, not your whole head, in cold water for several seconds in a bowl or basin. This may help with inflammation and reduce your stress.
- Swim in a lake, sea or ocean: Ease your way into the water and let your body acclimate to the cold. Wear a long-sleeved rash guard shirt or a wetsuit, goggles and swim cap. Additionally, make sure you don’t swim alone, always tell someone where you are going and swim in the daylight.
When trying these tips, Dr. Fernandez advises to take your time when getting into cold water. Most importantly, you should not immerse yourself in cold ice water without a plan, as cold-water immersion may cause shock and heart rhythm irregularities.
Consult your health care provider to see if cold water therapy is right for you, Dr. Fernandez says.
About the Author
Anna Schapiro is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has a background in public relations and communications and studied journalism at Northwestern University. When she’s not working on internal communications for the organization, she enjoys cooking, reading and living in Chicago.