Humans have been using cold water to treat and prevent various problems for centuries, but it hasn’t been until fairly recently that we’ve been able to practice cold therapy at home. Before we dive into the top 3 practical methods, let’s do a quick recap on what we know about cold therapy.
The human body is estimated to be about 70% water, which equates to about 10% of our total body weight. Our brains are 73% water, blood is 82%, and muscles and organs (excluding fat) are 75%. This high percentage of water makes the human body extremely sensitive to temperatures.
Body temperature is within a narrow range (36-37 °C or 97.5-98.6°F). Because the human body is so dependent on having an optimal temperature for all processes, it is not surprising that many studies have shown ice or cold water immersion can influence a wide range of metabolic and physiological processes.
The processes include reducing inflammation, pain, and swelling, stimulating the immune system, enhancing blood flow (vasoconstriction and vasodilation), and decreasing metabolism to conserve energy.
The Benefits Of Cold Therapy
Inflammation is an essential part of the body's natural defense system. It limits infection and damage to tissues and promotes healing; however, it can also cause significant discomfort. As we age, inflammation becomes a substantial factor in arthritis and many other chronic conditions.
Cold therapy can reduce pain and stiffness by decreasing inflammation and numbing the nerves. This allows patients to increase their activity levels, enhancing healing and reducing pain.
The effects of cold therapy are not limited to decreasing inflammation. Cold water can also affect the body's circulation system, slow down nerve impulses that cause pain, reduce muscle spasms, or relax tense muscles. When applied for short periods, cold therapy can temporarily decrease blood flow to the skin by up to 75%.
This decreases metabolic activity in your tissue, which slows down pain messages traveling to your brain. Cold therapy also has an analgesic effect that reduces nerve endings sensitivity.
In one particular study, when athletes were given either cold treatment or a placebo after their workout, those who received cold treatment had a reduced amount of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). In addition, these athletes also increased their range of motion more quickly than those who used the placebo.
Needless to say, there are a lot of benefits of ice baths and cold therapy.
Cold Therapy At Home
There are more ways than 3 to start practicing cold therapy at home with varying benefits, but here are our top 3 practical ways:
This simple and easy method can be used at any time. Just crank the water as cold as it will go, and do at least 2 minutes keeping as much as possible of your body hit by the water. Works great in the morning, and some people even report it helping them sleep better when done in the evening.
The main downside to cold showers versus other methods is that since you can’t completely control the water temperature and you can’t stay fully submerged, you’re not going to get the same benefits. The benefit you will still get is building resiliency from doing a hard thing. And that’s something.
DIY Ice Bath
The concept here is pretty simple (but not very easy to do daily or consistently): Find some kind of container that you can fit your entire body in, and fill it with water and ice, measuring the temperature with a thermometer until it’s at the desired temperature.
People have found that barrels or troughs can work, but just know that if you want to work ice baths into your routine regularly, you’ll have to change out the ice and water every couple of days which costs around $8k/yr. It’s also a pain in the butt.
Another DIY ice bath solution is using a freezer chest. You’ll need to make sure to seal it properly so it doesn’t leak, and you’ll have to control the temperature carefully. It’s also not something we recommend from a safety perspective because forgetting to unplug the freezer before getting in can be obviously dangerous.
Cold Plunge Tub
One of the most significant advantages of The Plunge is that it’s ready and waiting for you without any prep needed or time wasted. Our revolutionary Cold Plunge uses powerful cooling, filtration, and sanitation to give you cold, clean water whenever you want it, making it far superior to a DIY ice bath or chest freezer.
The Plunge is safe for indoor or outdoor use and we've made installation truly plug-and-plunge. Fill your Plunge up with a hose, turn it on, set your temp (down to 39F) and you're all set.