The benefits of cold water therapy for mothers
Slipping into an ice bath may not be your idea of fun, but cold water therapy has many benefits that will help take care of your mind and body throughout the busiest years of motherhood.
Cold water therapy is certainly having its moment – it’s hard to spend any amount of time online without coming across someone speaking on the reasons to take cold showers or jumping into an ice bath. While it seems to have appeared overnight, cold water therapy is a long-standing health practice that has an impressive list of proven health benefits.
How does it work?
Despite its current popularity on social media, cold water therapy is a tried and tested technique that goes back as far as the ancient Greeks. Now, modern science has gotten involved to help explain how exposing ourselves to cold water can address a number of health issues.
Research has shown that taking a dip in cold water narrows your blood vessels, which results in more blood being sent to your organs. Simultaneously, the pressure placed on your body from the water encourages blood to flow to these organs too. With the blood moving to your major organs, it’s able to take on an extra helping of nutrients and oxygen.
The magic really happens when you step out of the cold water. Your blood vessels expand, sending your blood back around your body. This highly oxygenated and nutrient-filled blood then gets to work by taking away waste products and lowering inflammation. The repeated expansion and contraction of your blood vessels from regular cold water therapy sessions will effectively strengthen them, which can lead to improved circulation. While your little ones may cause your blood pressure to rise every once in a while, cold water therapy can help to keep you at your best!
How to do cold water therapy?
There are several ways to reap the benefits of cold water therapy. Some are more accessible than others, so try them out and find what suits you best.
Taking cold showers is the perfect first step into cold water therapy. There’s no specialist equipment required – just your shower and a fistful of willpower. While cold showers may not help to the same extent as jumping in an ice bath, it’s a great place to start. Simply turn your temperature all the way to cold and step in.
You can start small by having your shower as normal and then turning it to cold for the last ten seconds. Once you can withstand this amount of time, try to increase it slightly and keep going. The key is to remember to breathe, as the initial cold shock causes some people to hold their breath. Breathe through the cold and you will soon become accustomed to it. Cold showers are great if you’re exercising particularly hard and will wake you up immediately if done first thing in the morning. So try one out and you may not need that first cup of coffee quite so badly!
Cold water immersion
Cold water immersion is pretty self-explanatory. You can submerge your whole body or a specific area for targeted treatment. Due to the rise in popularity of this therapy, ice baths are now commonly found in various health clinics. These are not to be taken lightly and initially should be done under expert supervision to ensure your safety. It’s not advisable to stay in for very long at all, and there’s no need as it only takes a matter of minutes to experience the health boost!
Contrast water therapy
Contrast water therapy is a clever way to combine the benefits of cold water therapy and heat therapy. Studies suggest that alternating between hot and cold water helps with recovery and reduces soft tissue inflammation. The most common approach is to submerge the specific joint or limb in hot water (approximately 38 degrees Celsius) for four minutes, and then placing it in cold water (approximately 9 degrees Celsius) for one minute. This process is repeated six times for a total of 30 minutes. This is a truly powerful way to combat the aches and pains that are an inevitable part of motherhood!
The key benefits
Cold water therapy doesn’t sound like much fun, so it better be worth it! Don’t worry, the potential benefits of this chilly treatment may really help you out when you’re feeling the stresses and strains of daily life as a mum.
So often, mothers have to push their pain to the back of their mind and carry on with the day’s work. It’s only when you sit down in the evening that you notice that throbbing feeling in your lower back or sharp pain in your knee. Cold water therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation and provide relief for people suffering from short- and long-term physical pain.
Contrast water therapy is a particularly effective pain treatment for sprained ankles and wrists, and even arthritis. Thanks to how it causes your blood vessels to expand and contract, carrying vital nutrients to wherever you need, it can help to bring any swelling down and offer you some respite.
Whether you’re pumping iron or carrying your little one around all day, muscle soreness is an everyday part of being a mum. Introducing some cold water therapy into your day has been shown to reduce the effects of the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). So while it may be a real challenge to take that cold shower or dunk yourself in a cold plunge, your muscles will thank you at the end of the day. You’ll recover faster and be back at your best for the following day!
Aside from the physical benefits, there are reportedly psychological benefits to taking an icy dip. Recent studies have shown that immersing your body in cold water can produce a 250% increase of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. So while it may not be an enticing prospect at first, science suggests that you won’t regret taking the plunge!
Subjecting yourself to very cold temperatures is not something that should be done without caution. Cold exposure, especially when submerging yourself fully, can place a lot of stress on your body. It demands a lot from your heart and blood vessels, as well as your mental fortitude. As a result, it’s always worth consulting with your doctor before undertaking cold water therapy, to ensure that it’s safe for you to try.
Another possible risk from cold water therapy is hypothermia. This condition comes as a result of your body temperature dropping too low. Naturally, the chances of this happening in an ice bath are much higher than in most other parts of your life, so take care. Sitting in an ice bath for too long or at too low of a temperature can potentially be very harmful. As before, consult with your doctor and, at least initially, take your ice baths under the supervision of a health professional.
The stress your body experiences from the cold water is exactly what will result in the positive health benefits. Think of it like going to the gym – it’s difficult each time but the long-term results speak for themselves. Once the necessary considerations have been made, it’s time to dip your toe in. Start small, scale it up slowly and, before you know it you’ll be taking cold showers every morning and making regular appointments for your local cold plunge!
Cold water therapy is far from a fad and it’s here to stay. Whether you’re starting the day with a cold shower, soaking your tired joints or taking ice baths regularly, you will soon begin to notice the healing properties of cold water. With all the demands of motherhood, it might be just what you need to take care of your body and your mind.