Cold Water Therapy - Many Benefits
Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Relief and More
Cold water therapy wasn't thought of as a therapy back when I was enrolled in the Biology Department at the University of Victoria. Then they were doing the research on how to survive in cold water if you fell off your boat in the winter. More recently, we have learned much about the value of brief exposures of the body to cold water. The ancient Greeks were aware of the healing properties of a cold water treatment. The Spartans, for whom health was very important, regularly dipped in icy water for vigour and improved health. Two millennia ago in Scandinavia, it became common for people to jump into cold water after sweating in saunas. Now it is becoming better known that cold water therapy can help for such things as rheumatoid arthritis pain relief.
When the body is given brief (one to two minute) exposures to cold water, the blood vessels near the skin contract to send blood towards the core of the body to conserve body heat as a survival mechanism. In many people, the capillaries deep inside the body are not functioning well because of poor circulation and an unhealthy lifestyle. This exposure to cold has the effect of causing regeneration of these capillaries. This greater capillary circulation increases health by improving blood supply to internal organs. Tempering the body with cold water therapy increases the rate of metabolism. It helps to purge free radicals, heavy metals and a variety of toxins. It also dramatically strengthens immunity.
We tend to constantly protect ourselves from natural cold and heat by using air conditioners, heaters, and seasonal clothing. This tends to artificially keep our bodies at the same temperature, disabling our natural systems of thermal regulation. While this makes us feel comfortable, we decrease our ability to regulate our internal temperature and, as a result, get sick from even minor changes in temperatures, exposure to wet weather and cold drafts. This reduces energy, vitality, and longevity. Most of the cultures of the world that include large proportions of centenarians live in the mountains where there are wide temperature contrasts. The human body can develop considerable tolerance for cold. There are areas of the world where, when the ice breaks up on rivers, swimmers compete in lengthy swims in the ice-cold water - now that is cold water therapy!
A new study at the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine found that cold showers can reduce and even prevent depression. A few minutes to get used to the temperature and then a cool 2 to 3 minute shower once or twice daily will lift the spirits. It is believed that short, cold showers may stimulate the brain's source of noradrenalin, a biochemical that could help mediate depression. I have had a couple of people tell me personally that such cold treatments resulted in rheumatoid arthritis pain relief - they were happy.
There are many other ways that cold or hot or alternating temperatures of water can be used to bring healing to the body. Various hydrotherapy treatments can relieve headaches and many aches and pains. They work because the body has a built-in system of reactions to exposure to heat or cold. The circulatory system's total capacity is much greater than your blood volume. The blood vessels of the skin alone are capable of holding 30% of the total blood volume! All this extra capacity allows more blood to be directed to or away from a particular area through the proper application of hot or cold water.
Always start treatments slowly so that you can get used to the temperatures and learn what your body can handle.
While I never volunteered as a subject for that cold water research back in my University days, I am starting to practice cold water showers now and find that is does feel quite invigorating. All you need to to do is, at the end of a shower, turn the water to cold for a short time, perhaps less than a minute. Start gently and each time as you find it easier, lower the temperature and/or increase the time.
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