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Restore and Renew: The Benefits of Contrast Therapy

Whether you are an athlete, recovering from an injury or just experience general discomfort with your muscles and joints, there are many benefits to implementing hot and cold therapy in your wellness routine.

For example, cold therapy can be used to reduce inflammation by slowing down your blood flow to the affected area, and is extremely beneficial in reducing exercise-induced muscle damage. Additionally, it can be beneficial for those who suffer from migraines.  Conversely, hot therapy increases blood flow and circulation which is beneficial for relieving tight or sore muscles, helping with pain and spasms and promoting general relaxation. Woodside Massage Therapist Jason Campbell shares with us the benefits of hot and cold therapy, the effects it has had on his personal journey and how to safely implement this into any health and wellness routine.

In your own words, how would you describe the benefits of cold and hot therapy and what types of healing and recovery can be achieved by using both? 

Jason: Temperature therapies are interesting because, while they are both beneficial when used alone, they are even more impactful when used together, and they get even more powerful when practiced over time.

Cold therapy by itself is beneficial to your immune and muscular systems. When your body is cold, it causes your muscles to constrict, which stimulates white blood cells to start attacking any contaminants that might be sitting dormant, thus giving your immune system a little boost. Although it does take some getting used to, when you use the cold plunge habitually you get an improved sense of overall wellbeing thanks to the release endorphins as you start to warm up again after therapy. Last, I believe cold therapy helps you toughen up your body a bit and build endurance. You learn to tolerate something that is, let’s be honest, uncomfortable – so it can help you mentally when faced with other difficult or challenging experiences in other aspects of life. I’ve certainly seen this to be true in my life.

Cold therapy is extremely beneficial for athletes or those that are really pushing themselves during a workout. When you work out to that degree, you create little tears in your muscles. The cold therapy helps “freeze” that process and ultimately promotes a quicker recovery. That is why you see pro athletes in ice packs and ice baths a lot of the time. They are trying to quickly recover or stop the process of inflammation.

On the other end of the spectrum, hot therapy simulates the blood flow to your tissues and gets optimum nutrients into your blood flow –  things like oxygen, proteins, vitamins, etc. The type of relaxation that occurs in the muscles is similar to that of a hot stone massage. As massage therapists, we use hot stones to release and relax muscles so we can achieve more movement in an area with less effort. I will tell a lot of my clients to sit in the steam room before a massage to help loosen things up and therefore get the most out of their experience. It is time consuming, but it elevates your service and enhances the overall benefits you’ll get from your time in The Spa.

You can see why combining the two therapies round out the healing process. Cold therapy stops the breakdown in muscles and reduces inflammation, while hot therapy increases blood flow (which continues the healing process) and loosens things up for increased performance. And to top it off, both therapies aid lymphatic drainage, which helps rid your body of toxins and allows your body fight infection. Bonus!

You personally use both forms of these therapies — what difference have you seen with your body with consistent practice?

Jason: I use the cold therapy mostly to fight inflammation. My job demands a lot from my body, and I use it as a form of recovery. You will see me downstairs laying my arms out in the cold plunge after every shift I work. I swear, at 52 that’s what has kept me going. I also have multiple sclerosis so cold therapy truly heals me. I started using it when I found out that it helps to reduce inflammation, and it has been life changing. I thought at the time, “If my immune system is going haywire and attacking my nervous system – why not try it?” I have been using it religiously since, and am proud to say now that I am in remission. Of course, it was in tandem with a change in diet and fitness, but it was integral to the process.

How can you ensure you are safely utilizing both therapies?

Jason: Personally, I would say that you should spend no more than fifteen minutes in the hot tub. At that point you are not going to get any additional benefit. For the cold plunge, you should be spending between five and ten minutes max — you shouldn’t camp out in there. Gradualism is key with both therapies. Start smart.

Additionally, if you have a cardiovascular disease or something you are medicated for you should consult your doctor before adding hot or cold therapies into your fitness routine. Even if you think it might not have an effect on anything, it’s best to check with your doctor first.

Why should one consider making this a part of their health and wellness routine? 

Jason: If you’re hesitant about trying this, start slow and use the cold plunge once a week for a month and see if you find benefit in it.  Or the next time your trainer mixes up a workout, try five minutes in the cold plunge and a few minutes in the jacuzzi to combat that soreness. Even if you are not all the way in the cold plunge, you will still see benefits. The cold plunge is a lot like a like a deep tissue massage, unpleasant in the moment but boy do you feel good after!

These therapies can make a big difference for people that have physically demanding jobs or who are overly stressed. However, to combat stress it is vital to use both therapies because they work in tandem to combat the issues your body experiences as a result of stress. Stress actively breaks down your immune system, and unfortunately our society is not conditioned to combat stress in the most effective ways. Why not do something as easy as hopping in a cold plunge and hot tub to try and take better care of yourself?

To take advantage of the ways The Spa at Woodside can aid in your rest and recovery, call the Spa at 913.831.0043 to book a service, view the full menu on The Spa page or head down to the indoor pools and saunas on the lower level of the Main Clubhouse – open seven days a week.

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