Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Cold therapy: Does it work?

Firstly, I would like to start this week by thanking everyone who helped us win the ‘2019 Business With A Heart Of Gold’ accolade at the Omagh Business Awards. Massive thanks to those who nominated, voted and supported any of our programmes. We are delighted to receive this award and it makes all the hard work and effort that little bit sweeter.

On to today’s topic – cold therapy. So what is cold therapy? Cold therapy or in its full medical term ‘cryotherapy’ originates as far back as the Egyptians. Cryotherapy refers to the use of cold temperature to treat disease for a wide variety of skin conditions.

One part of cryotherapy is cold water submersion which has been used by many sports teams in the form of ice baths to help aid recovery.

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It has also been made famous by Wim Hof, who is a Dutch extreme athlete. And when I say extreme, I mean extreme. His feats include climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle on his bare feet, and standing in a container while covered with ice cubes for more than 112 minutes. Trust me this guy and his method is well worth looking up.

So apart from world records what does cold water therapy do?

It is claimed that cold water immersion activates the body’s natural healing powers that can relieve the symptoms of many medical conditions and promote a sense of health and well-being.

And when practised on a regular basis, cold water immersion can even provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems that enhance the overall quality of your life. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits.

Reduce stress

One of the benefits of this ‘crazy’ therapy – as some of us might describe it – is that you will instantly feel happier and more energetic. Exposing the body to cold temperatures reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, and increases the feel-good hormones – endorphins.

Boost your immune system

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Doing cold immersion therapy two or three times per week, you might notice that you aren’t sick as often. Studies are still inconclusive on whether or not cold immersion therapy prevents illnesses, but it’s suggested that the cold temperatures contract your lymph vessels. This contraction, which is typically achieved via muscle contraction, pumps lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing waste, bacteria and microbes out, essentially cleansing the body.

Reverse inflammation

As we mentioned above, athletes do a lot of cold water immersion. This is because, after a training session, muscles get quite swollen from the increased blood flow and torn muscle fibres. The cold water lowers the temperature of the muscles worked and constricts the blood vessels, helping speed up recovery time and bringing instant relief with the numbness.

Where to begin

Now we see the benefits that come from cold water immersion there is no need to jump right into the freezing deep end just yet. I would suggest your first step takes place in your shower at home.

Once you have finished your nice hot steamy shower its time to turn the temperate right down, the whole way down. At first this is a shock and you may even start to panic, but this is natural. Just concentrate on your breathing and after the first initial shock it will soon settle. Stay under the water for 20 seconds or so the first time and try to build it up to three minutes.

If you can’t cope with the cold water – even for a few seconds – then take the shower head in one hand and put the cold water over your arms and legs to help your body get used to the cold water.

Other methods might include a homemade ice bath (you will need a lot of ice), CryoSpa like the one at Youth Sport Omagh, or jump right into a lake or dip your head under the Gortin Glens Waterfall.

Like anything it is worth a try and if it doesn’t work for you then it doesn’t work. But even the fact that you come out of the shower, after you have heated up a little, feeling so much fresher, then you are winning. Give it a try and see what extremes the body can, and was designed to, endure.

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