Is it just us, or are people jumping into ice-cold bodies of water everywhere we look? Cold therapy (including cold plunging) is having its moment in the wellness world. As popularity and the body of research supporting it grows, the question is: should you brave the cold?
It’s easy to make cold therapy work for your specific needs, cold tolerance, or environment. For those of us who have experienced hot flashes, some cold therapy methods might sound familiar – but there are also many benefits.
The Benefits of Cold Therapy
While we don’t know much yet about what cold therapy means for incontinence, it appears to have a ton of benefits.
When your body encounters the cold, superficial blood vessels constrict and push blood toward your organs, bringing them more oxygen and nutrients. It happens in a matter of moments, and once your body returns to a normal temperature, your blood vessels dilate again and begin to remove lactic acid buildup. This may help you reduce muscle soreness and enhance recovery after exercise; there is a reason you see athletes perform cold plunges after a tough workout!
Cold therapy may also help reduce inflammation in the body, which in turn can reduce pain. If you don’t have a frozen pond nearby to leap into, you can even get these benefits by swapping between cold and warm water in the shower.
And then there are cold therapy’s mood-boosting benefits. While it may not feel pleasant in the moment, studies indicate that cold therapy can enhance your mood for hours afterward by increasing dopamine, the famous feel-good neurotransmitter. On top of alllll of that, cold therapy is thought to stimulate leukocytes, white blood cells that are known to fight infections and illnesses including the dreaded cold and flu.
Sounds great, but what are the risks of cold therapy?
Keep in mind that cold therapy is not for everyone. Be sure to talk to your doctor before you try any version of cold therapy, especially if you have heart or lung conditions, are prone to hives, or have been diagnosed with Raynaud's syndrome.
If you do decide to give it a try, go easy. Some things to watch out for if you spend too much time in the cold are a cold-induced rash called cold panniculitis, hypothermia, ice burn, cold shock response, and even nerve damage. If you’re unsure or nervous about potential side effects, make sure that you speak to a doctor and are monitored during your cold exposure.
Ready to give it a shot? Here’s how you might incorporate cold therapy into your wellness routine.
No matter your level of commitment, cold therapy might be a wellness practice to try out.
Level 1: If you have localized pain, try using a cold pack, cold compress, cold spray, or ice roller on that area.
Level 2: Turn the water to cold in the shower for a few minutes or submerge your body in a cold plunge or bath. You can get a special ice bathtub or use your regular tub plus some ice (brr!) Start with a couple of minutes in water around 60 degrees F. As you become acclimated to the cold, you can drop the temperature until you’re eventually in the ideal range of 41-50 degrees F. Benefits come with sessions of just 2-4 minutes.
Level 3: Try supervised cryotherapy, where your body is submerged in extremely cold temperatures in an office setting, or try a winter cold plunge in your local lake or ocean. If you’re doing cold immersion in extremely cold water (like in a cold climate lake in the winter) keep it to a quick dip and then go warm up!
How far you want to take your cold therapy really is up to you! After you chill, we want to make sure you quickly return to comfort. Hop in a warm shower, or wrap up with a towel or robe to dry off. Then, bring on the cozy time and stay dry all day with our pads, liners, and briefs.
This content is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This content is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.