Hot & Cold Contrast Baths
In many instances, no matter how small the injury, tissues will have either been stretched or an impact received causing blood vessels to be torn or damaged. The extent of bleeding will depend on the vascularity of the tissues involved and may be increased if injured during exercise. Blood will flow out until the vessels are restricted (vasoconstriction), so preventing further blood leaking into the tissues. It is important to stop bleeding into tissues as the blood will act as an irritant, increase inflammation, and must be cleared from the tissues before the healing process can properly commence.
Cells starved of nourishment from the blood due to injury will soon die. These dying cells stimulate the release of histamine causing the blood vessels to dilate, thereby bringing increased blood supply and extra nutrients to help repair and rebuild the damaged tissues. During this phase of increased but slower and more viscous blood supply, the capillary walls become much more permeable and quantities of protein and inflammatory substances are pushed into the area causing swelling. Various reactions continue at a rapid rate, all contributing to the healing process.
Use of contrast baths
All that you require is two bowls of water, one iced and the other as hot as you can bear, and a few towels. Alternatively, you can purchase specially made hot and cold packs, but you must remember to protect the skin when you use these packs. The use of contrast baths is as follows:
Repeat this process for about ten minutes until you see the skin change colour. The whole process can be repeated three or four times a day.
Contraindications of using contrast baths
It is important to educate anyone managing injuries including athletes themselves on at least the basic use of Ice (Cryotherapy) or contrast baths on acute injuries - early treatment is essential.
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