Contrast bath and its benefits to injury recovery

Doctor’s Corner with Dr JOSEPH KABUNGO
RECOVERY of soccer players from injury and general body soreness is very critical.
Injuries can happen as a result of direct trauma due to sport participation and many other reasons such as over-use, non-contact, resulting in torn ligaments and at times due to normal physical exercise.
It does not matter what exactly has led to the injury to occur but the bottom line is that treatment will be needed in most of the cases if the injury is bad.
It is vital that easy and cost effective ways are put forward in managing or treating injuries.
Last Sunday, I tackled the importance of early ice therapy in the treatment of injuries.
This Sunday, I will highlight one important method that is used by sports men and soccer player in particular in the treatment of various problems affecting the muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues.
This method is that of using cold water and hot water in facilitating healing of the affected body part.
This alternate use of cold and hot water is what is known as the contrast bath.
This is because it uses the principle of alternating between cold and hot water in order to get desired results.
Last Sunday, I explained on the importance of using ice in the treatment of injuries.
Ice has been known to act as a local painkiller or offering analgesic effect once applied to the affected part in a well-co-ordinated and organised manner.
Ice causes the inflammatory response to reduce and thus prevents swelling of the injured part.
This reduction of the inflammatory response as a result of injury is beneficial and will allow an enhanced chance of returning to play, especially in mild to moderate injuries.
In a contrast bath, it is both the hot and cold water that is used to facilitate recovery.
Whilst ice application is good for localised injuries, a contrast bath is able to cover a wide area in this respect. Hot water is able to cause an increase in blood flow by causing vasodilatation of the blood vessels.
Vasodilatation is the increase in the size of the blood vessels resulting in more blood to flow.
The opposite of vasodilatation is vasoconstriction, which is what ice is able to do.
Contrast bath uses the principle, which is at times referred to as Hot/Cold therapy.
This use of the cold and hot water acts as a pump that forces increased circulation in the affected body part.
The increase in blood circulation is able to help in removing the accumulated fluid and it is beneficial in dealing with accumulated lactic acid in muscles as well.
Contrast baths are used in the treatment of repetitive strain or overuse injuries.
Overuse injuries require enough time to heal and any means that facilitates this process has to be encouraged.
One important thing to note when doing a contrast bath is the timing of how long you get exposed to the hot water, before you get the cold water.
Water must be hot enough and applied for at least four minutes before switching to cold water.
It is important that the water that is used is cold enough so that there is a perfect contrast in order to achieve the desired goal of recovery.
A contrast bath can help in handling body stress as a result of physical exercise, which is known to cause micro trauma to the muscles.
A contrast bath will always result in a relaxed state and reduction in inflammation as a result of the micro trauma.
Cold and hot water can be put in a container such as a storage bin, bucket or bowl that is capable of accommodating the affected part. An overhead shower is also an alternative in doing a contrast bath.
The use of a contrast bath is increasingly becoming popular and soccer players are always encouraged to try this cheap and yet beneficial method of managing body soreness and other overuse injuries.
It is important to have supervised and well organised sessions of a contrast bath after training.
In Zambia ,it is quite clear that not many teams have training facilities that can accommodate holding of a contrast bath. However, even in a home setting with an overheard shower an individual can still manage to alternate between hot and cold water.
Many times, it becomes the responsibility of soccer player to facilitate the recovery process by knowing what to do.
A contrast bath or hot/cold therapy has to be encouraged by coaches, team doctors and physiotherapists for the benefit of the player’s recovery.
A contrast bath has also been found to be useful in treating injuries such as patella tendinopathy, Achilles tendinopathy and planter fasciitis among many other conditions.
There are so many theories surrounding the recovery process for soccer players but a contrast bath, which is cheap and easy to follow, is definitely good for the players.
A contrast bath or hot/cold therapy can also be used by individuals who jog a lot in order to reduce on the body soreness that result from this.
Apart from adequate hydration after and during exercise, good nutritional habits, rest and body massage will go a long way.
For questions and comments write to Dr Kabungo Joseph
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