Contrast bathing will speed the healing, but only speed it not reduce the pain. Again the patient needs to realise all of this, so direct them to these pages.
Apply cold, not freezing, to an area to constrict the blood vessels and pump the blood away. About 2 mins is normally right. Tissues and lymphatic vessels will also constrict taking toxins away. The shrinking that the cold induces in all the tissues literally forces the fluids out of the area. So you need to really cool the area which will take time and be uncomfortable but should not be painful. If it is, stop.
Apply heat [warmth not red hot] to the area to warm it through and induce dilation in the blood and lymph vessels thus introducing fresh blood into the area and with it all the nutrients that are needed to help the tissues heal and the resultant dilation of the soft tissues will flood both the soft tissues and the lymphatic system plumping it all up ready for the next bout of cold.
Warm for half the time that you cool, the idea is to cool the area not freeze it. 1 minute warm & 2 minutes cool is about right. The exception to this is when the damage is deep within a joint such as the shoulder or the knee when at least doubling the time periods may be needed to obtain the shrinking and plumping up of the tissues at the required depth, [slow contrast bathing].
Always End with warm as cold tissues are prone to damage if stretched undoing all the good in an instant should you slip. This is such a beneficial treatment that each ten minutes will roughly equate to a day’s normal healing.
So three ten minute treatments a day equates to four days healing in a single day. Now you know how it is that professional sportsmen and women can be returned to fitness so quickly.
To Warm and cool various methods are popular, showers work well, so do warm and cool water bottles or flannels & towels or just bowels of water; gel packs are also good but because they take so long to cool after use you need a lot in the fridge for the cool where warming them can be done quickly in a microwave, even wheat bags for the hot and pollytheen bags full of cold water work for the cool.
Combinations can work well too. For instance if you are warming a shoulder in the shower you really don’t want cold water all down the rest of your body when it comes to the cooling bit. A cold wet towel applied just to the shoulder is much more acceptable.
The image I like of this is that of a little localised pump, pumping in the goodness and pumping out the badness. Simplistic but not that inaccurate.
I have had a patient with a quite badly torn muscle who, having tried contrast bathing for a couple of days and been convinced of the efficacy of it, then spent a whole day in the shower going from hot to cold and back again and from being unable to sit or stand straight on Friday evening was doing a full days physical work on the Monday.
This I would expect to lead to problems at some time in the future though he seems fine at present.