Cold Water Therapy is a popular method to boost the body’s immune system, reduce inflammation and promote mental clarity. It can be done at home by dipping into a cool lake, taking a cold shower or adding a plunge to your daily workout. The technique is used by elite athletes and regular people to nudge their bodies into a more optimal state of functioning. The process triggers the body to release a number of hormones and neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, that help boost mood and increase energy levels.
The cold temperature causes the blood vessels to constrict and restricts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, which reduces muscle soreness, according to research. This makes it a natural anti-inflammatory, without the side effects of drugs like ibuprofen. It’s similar to the way applying an ice pack to an injury decreases swelling, pain and discomfort.
During a cold water plunge, the body is also encouraged to stretch more easily due to increased flexibility, which can improve posture and lead to less back pain. It can be an effective technique to treat long-lasting (chronic) or short-term (acute) pain, including rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and foot and ankle sprains, Giordano says.
If you’re not ready to wade into a freezing cold lake or head to a specialty recovery studio, start by adding cold water therapy into your daily routine with a few minutes in a shower. Just be sure to start slow and gradually acclimate your body to the cooler temperatures to prevent hypothermia.