Water may seem to be a surprising form of medical treatment, but it has been used this way for thousands of years and it's roots run deep in naturopathic medicine, having been practiced extensively in Germany since the mid 1800s.
Contrast hydrotherapy is one type of hydrotherapy consisting of the alternating of hot and cold water on the body. When used locally, it acts as a sort of pump for the circulatory system. When hot water is applied, the blood vessels expand and more blood is brought to the area. When cold water is applied, the blood vessels constrict and blood flow is forced away from the area. For injuries, this is a great way to bring healing nutrients to the area with the hot water and to push waste products away with the cold water.
When done to the whole body, it has a parasympathetic effect - it puts one in the "rest and digest" state which allows for relaxation, unlike the sympathetic "fight or flight" state in which many people find themselves. It is an excellent promoter of blood and lymph circulation and it has an immune boosting effect.
3 minutes of hot water
30 seconds of cold water
Repeat 3 times, always ending on cold.
Try to have the largest temperature difference between hot and cold that can be tolerated.
You can use tubs of hot and cold water to do this locally (just be sure not to submerge open wounds) or you can use hot and cold towels. For whole body, try it in the shower. If you're fortunate to have a hot tub, you can use a hose for the cold or you can easily build an outdoor shower as shown in the photo. The first cold application is the hardest, the second one easier, and the third and final one you will hardly notice. True story!
Don't worry that the temperature differential is not large when starting out, especially when doing a whole body application. The temperature difference will increase the more you do it. One caution for whole body is that you should be thoroughly warm, warm to the core, before changing to cold on the first round. If you can't manage to get that warm, then wait for another day to try it as you will struggle with feeling cold for a period of time after if you are not warmed through first. When warmed through at the beginning, you need not worry about being cold when ending with cold. The residual warmth in your body will come through and you will finish feeling invigorated.
Contrast hydrotherapy in the shower is a great way to start the day! Try it tomorrow!