Contrast Baths
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Summary: This form of hydrotherapy has several health benefits such as improved circulation and increased blood flow.
 
 

Contrast baths are the immersion of a body part alternately in cold and hot water. This causes alternate contraction and dilation of blood vessels, which increase blood flow, white blood cell activity, and the oxidation process to speed up healing.

This treatment is based on the principle that by alternate contraction and dilation of the blood vessels, brought about by the contrasting application of heat and cold, the circulation is improved and the removal of waste products is hastened (Hydrotherapy in the Home, 12).

Indications and Counter Indications

Source: AmandaLeighPanda on Flickr.

Contrast bath treatment can help with the following health problems:

  1. Congestive headaches
  2. Infections (give treatment 2-6 times per day to stimulate local defense against infection)
  3. Sprains, strains, and other traumas
  4. Poor circulation, congestions, indolent ulcers
  5. Osteoarthritis

 

However, contrast bath treatment is dangerous if you have the following health conditions:

  • Loss of feeling in the feet or legs
  • Extreme peripheral vascular disease of the feet or legs
  • Hemorrhages

 

Here are some indications from Dr. Neil Nedley's book Depression: The Way Out:

For more than 100 years, Mental illness has occasionally been treated with warm baths utilizing natural hot springs or other sources. Before the 1950s, special showers, baths, wet sheet wraps, and other forms of hydrotherapy were routinely used in psychiatric hospitals throughout the United States and Europe. These approaches were not only used to treat depression, but were also used to treat delirium, agitation, insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbances, and pain syndromes.i

Procedure

Equipment

  • Two containers large enough to allow body part to be immersed completely
  • Thermometer
  • Drape sheet or gown
  • Thick towels
  • Cold compress for head or neck, ice bag for heart if necessary
  • Pitcher to add hot water
  • Container to heat water in
  • Ice for cold compress and cold bath if desired

 


Important Considerations

 

  • If a large part of the body is treated, used cold compress to head and neck (ice bag to heart if pulse goes over 80 BPM)
  • Do not use temperatures over 115° F (46°C)
  • Temperatures above 103° F (39°C) should not be used in cases of blood vessel disease of he legs and feet
  • Extremes of hot and cold should not be used on patients with ‘peripheral vascular disease’ (this is different from varicose veins) or diabetes
  • Begin hot water immersion at lower limit than tolerance, increasing the temperature during the application

 


Treatment

1. Assemble the necessary materials
2. Have treatment room warm and free of drafts
3. Explain the procedure to the patient
4. Check the patient’s pulse
5. Assist the patient as necessary
6. Place area to be treated in hot water (about 103° to 105° F or 39°C to 41°C) and quickly increase temperature to the highest you intend to use for that treatment, keeping submerged for three minutes
7. Place part in cold water for 30 seconds to one minute
8. Check the patient’s pulse every five minutes; apply cold compress to neck and ice bag to heart if needed
9. Make six to eight changes, ending with the cold water, except when treating rheumatoid arthritis, in which case, finish with a hot application. Total treatment time should be 20 to 30 minutes.
10. Dry the patient thoroughly and give cooling measures if needed, encouraging patient to rest for at least half an hour.

 


 

i. Neil Nedley, Depression: The Way Out (Review & Herald Publishing Association, 2001): 95.

These remedies are adapted from the book Healing Edibles & Other Home Remedies by Joe and Elsa Willis. Joe and Elsa Willis run Maranatha Medical Ministries, an medical outreach center in the mountains of Honduras. They help surrounding villagers with their health issues using principles of healthful living and the natural means God has given. Their assistance to the poor of Honduras has made a huge difference in the lives of many.

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