There are plenty of benefits to hot tubs , saunas and cold baths alike. But what if you combined their powers to create something even better?
That’s the idea behind water circuit therapy, also known as contrast water therapy (CWT).
What exactly is water circuit therapy? It involves switching between water-based treatments of varying temperatures, including hot tubs, saunas and cold baths, the reap the benefits of each, as well as their combined advantages.
A water circuit therapy session will look something like this:
- 10-20 minutes in a hot tub to warm up and massage tight muscles.
- 10 minutes in a sauna to promote sweating and increase blood flow.
- 10-20 minutes in a cool bath to gradually reduce your body temperature.
- 10 minutes in a cold bath to reduce pain, calm inflammation and boost your mood.
Let’s find out more about water circuit therapy and how it may be beneficial to you.
What Does Contrast Water Therapy Do?
Contrast water therapy is designed to relieve soreness while simultaneously promoting muscle health.
In 2013, a research paper titled “Contrast Water Therapy and Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One.
There, researchers examined experiments in which the effects of CWT as a post-exercise treatment were studied. After evaluating the results of each study, the researchers concluded that CWT is superior to passive recovery/rest, and carries the following benefits:
- Reduced muscle soreness.
- Reduced fatigue.
- Reduced muscle strength loss.
- Reduced muscle power loss.
- Reduced muscle spasm.
- Reduced muscle inflammation.
- Improved range of motion.
Based on these results, contrast water therapy can be a valuable post-workout recovery tool.
According to a PainScience.com article titled “Contrast Hydrotherapy,” contrast water therapy can also help with various non-exercise-induced types of pain, especially those resulting from repetitive strain injuries such as:
- Plantar fasciitis.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Achilles tendinitis.
- Shin splints
- Tennis elbow.
What Are the Benefits of Each Aspect of Water Circuit Therapy?
As we mentioned above, each component of water circuit therapy comes with its own set of benefits. Here, we’ll give you a quick rundown.
Hot tub benefits:
- Stress relief.
- Muscle and joint pain reduction.
- Improved sleep.
- Clearer skin.
- Pain relief and joint mobility.
- Improved breathing.
- Reduced stress.
- Better heart health.
- Healthy skin.
- A stronger immune system.
Ice bath benefits:
- Muscle damage reduction.
- Inflammation and swelling reduction.
- Pain relief.
- Improved mood.
When you combine all three you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of each, while simultaneously creating an extra benefit.
That additional benefit is the cardiovascular work your body has to do in order to rapidly adapt to different temperatures, which serves to stimulate your body’s tissues and increase blood circulation.
If you’re considering water circuit therapy, remember that rapid and extreme changes in temperature can be harmful, especially to those with heart conditions.
According to a 2012 study published in the journal Extreme Physiology & Medicine, “Moving in extreme environments: Open water swimming in cold and warm water,” sudden immersion in cold water can trigger heart arrhythmias, which can be extremely dangerous to individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular issues.
Since the cardiac stress caused by cold water immersion is only exacerbated when immediately preceded by heat, it’s recommended to:
- Take a warm or cool bath to lower your body temperature after using your hot tub/sauna and before taking a cold bath.
- Lower yourself into your cold bath gradually to reduce cardiovascular stress.
Additionally, all the safety tips that normally apply to hot tubs and saunas also apply here, including:
- Limit your hot tub or sauna session to no more than 10 minutes if you’re inexperienced.
- Immediately exit your hot tub or sauna to cool down if you start feeling light-headed, fatigued, nauseous, dizzy or otherwise ill.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water both before and after your hot tub or sauna session.
Water circuit therapy has a wide range of benefits that can help a wide range of people. Best of all, you don’t have to go to a spa or physical therapy center to enjoy it — with a hot tub, sauna and bathtub, you can experience all the relaxation, pain relief and other advantages that water circuit therapy has to offer.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give medical advice. Please talk with your doctor before starting water circuit therapy.