We reach for medicine when we have a headache, but there are many non medicinal treatment options available simply by understanding the combinations of temperature, and length and form of application of water. For example; When my Italian Grandfather would get a throbbing headache, my very old-fashioned Grandmother used to make an herbal foot soak for him. As a child I was confused by this.
The basic thing that you need to understand about hydrotherapy is that hot creates what’s called vasodilation. This essentially means dilation of the veins. When the veins dilate, more blood is allowed to travel through. In contrast to dilating the veins, is vasoconstriction. When cold is applied to an area, it constricts the flow of blood, so in an area of injury where tissue is damaged, bringing ice to the area immediately can prevent swelling and bruising by restricting blood flow through constricted veins.
Understanding the injury process can be helpful, but just knowing the basics can bring healing to you and your family in a handful of cases. So, why did my Grandma use a hot foot bath for a headache? To open the veins in the lower extremities drawing the excess blood from the head that’s causing the throbbing. Are you thinking that she also used a cold pack on his head? Good call, the answer is yes.
That’s Hydrotherapy 101. Temperatures are important, but beyond Hydro 101 are the indications for ice or heat, along with the contraindications for each. In any case, I don’t recommend using ice or heat for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Keep in mind that you’re manipulating the body’s natural flows in order to accomplish something in a single part of the body. Once you’ve drawn or restricted a bunch of blood to a body part, you need to give the rest of the body a chance to remain normal. Also, the body has natural defense systems that aren’t in favor of your unnatural manipulations, so they need to be tricked in short spurts.
So, when do you use ice or heat on an injury? Checkout this article on the Naturopathic Doctor News And Review.
An instructor in Chinese Medicine once told me “To keep it easy, if it’s hot, use ice, if it’s not, use heat.” Although not quite that simple, it works. Examples would be, a fresh black eye that hasn’t swelled yet, an ice pack would stop the body’s natural responses from further injury that accompanies swelling. In the very beginning, I would use 15-20 minutes of ice every couple of hours. I would use ice until the threat of swelling and inflammation are gone. By adding heat too soon, or by using heat on an injury that is becoming infected, you threaten flushing undesirable cells into the blood stream. Here are some examples;
Tight Muscles: Tight, contracted muscles are not an injury. They are muscles that need oxygen. By using a heat pack for 15-20 minutes, the blood will begin to flow through the contracted area letting go of the stuck tissue. This is why a nice Jacuzzi after a workout is so relaxing.
A Hot, Swollen Joint: Joints have plenty of tendinous muscle attachments (no blood in tendons) that get aggravated causing the related bones to become inflamed, and that brings excess fluid that causes swelling and pain. By using ice, the excess fluid isn’t allowed in, lessening the pain. By adding heat too soon, you encourage the debris filled fluid through the entire system. By allowing the area to heal a little naturally, the injured cells will move out on their own time.
Alternating: So, what are people talking about when they suggest alternating ice and heat? This is called Alternate or Fluxion. This is the act of greatly increasing the circulation to an area, then stopping it with a short spurt of cold alternately, followed by heat again. This brings a flush of blood that washes out accumulated toxins created by an injury. Going black to the black eye that we treated with ice … Once the bruising starts to turn yellow, it’s ready for Fluxion to remove the debris caused by the injury.
When using alternating hot and cold applications to the same body area, there should be at least three alternating applications. The cold duration should be about one fourth to one half as long as the hot applications. Start with hot, always finish with cold.
Need to detox? Take a nice hot shower for 10 minutes. Switch it to cold for 3 minutes, switch it back to nice and hot, finish with a splash of cold. Be sure to drink lots of fresh, clean water for the rest of the day. Simple! Free! Do it with a pool and Jacuzzi, or maybe your gym has a cold plunge to use with the shower. Consult with your doctor before jumping into a cold plunge if you have hypertension.