How to do Contrast Hydrotherapy
Contrast hydrotherapy involves alternating hot and cold applications for the purpose of increasing local circulation and reducing inflammation. It is commonly used for subacute or chronic traumatic injury (more than 48 hours post-injury), impaired venous circulation and edema.
Contrast hydrotherapy is typically applied as wet compresses or partial immersions of affected body parts. The heat dilates and cold constricts local blood vessels, creating a “pumping” vascular action which helps clear out inflammation and accelerate recovery.
Do not use in acute asthma (over lungs) or if you are aggravated by cold (cold urticaria, Raynaud’s syndrome or phenomenon, etc). Use with caution in areas of decreased sensation (anesthesia, paralysis, neuropathy, etc) to avoid tissue damage, burns, etc.
Procedure for Contrast Hydrotherapy Compress
- Prepare one basin with hot water and place a bath towel into it. You may need to have extra hot water to add to basin during treatment. Prepare a second basin with cold water, add at least one tray of ice cubes to it, and place a hand towel into the cold water
- Take the bath towel from hot basin, wring it out, fold it once or twice, and place the hot towel on the affected area for 3-6 minutes. After that time, wring out the cold towel, remove the hot towel from the affected area and place the cold towel, folded once, over affected area for 1-2 minutes. You have completed one cycle of hot/cold application.
- Prepare the hot towel again, remove the cold towel and place the hot towel on the affected part to begin the second cycle of hot/cold application.
- Repeat the hot/cold cycle a total of 3-5 times, always finishing a cycle with the cold application.
1. Hayes, K.W. Manual for Physical Agents. 4th ed. 1993. Norwalk, CT. Appleton & Lange. Pp. ix, 169.
2. Mellion, M.B. Team Physician’s Handbook. 3rd ed. 2001. Philadelphia, PA. Hanley & Belfus.