Father Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian Monk, raised awareness of water therapy in the 19th century – these techniques include cold water dipping, sitz baths, hot tubs, saunas, douches, foot baths and wraps.
The benefits of cold-water immersion include pain relief, increased circulation, muscle strength, as well as mental health benefits such as uplift and increased resilience. People feel stimulated and invigorated, and the cold water “makes them feel alive.”
Starting as a holistic therapist, one of my clients was a cyclist. He told me about ice baths used for post-cycling muscle recovery. I wondered if it might help with fibromyalgia, a condition I struggled with. Aches, pains, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and flulike symptoms were factors.
To manage it naturally, I went to a small gym, had regular massages, nutritional supplements, and used aromatherapy oils. Warm Epsom salt baths, another form of hydrotherapy, were helpful too. Epsom salts contain magnesium, a relaxing mineral many of us may lack. It soaks into the skin while bathing, which may help with pain, and detoxification via sweat.
However, the ice bath wasn’t as appealing as the warm one! I opted for “just” a cold-water bath. As I bravely lowered myself in, my breathing became rapid as I experienced the cold water shock! That first experience shifted the significant achy pain!
I then regularly used another hydrotherapy technique of hot and cold-water showers. Starting with 20 seconds of cold water, I’d alternate with two minutes of warm, then back to the cold for a few repetitions – or I’d take a cold shower before a sauna.
How Does It Work?
Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, and as we warm, they contract. This phenomenon increases circulation as oxygen, white blood cells and nutrients flow to damaged tissue. By taking away metabolic waste, we detoxify better. Inflammation may also lessen, and the immune system is stimulated to produce more white blood cells.
Doing this may protect against or reduce symptoms of illness and speed up recovery. In sickness, there is often stagnation. Dipping may help our internal rivers to flow as it thins the lymph. With the cold “shock”, we release the stress hormone cortisol, which we then build more tolerance for. We may then experience increased resilience to other stressful situations.
Last summer, the river looked inviting, and I took the plunge regularly. Each lower temperature brought further challenges, such as increased fatigue. I adjusted and built resilience as I went through the winter. As I dip, I regularly experience gratitude for our beautiful countryside and being at one with nature.
Wales truly is God’s Country
Please do your research or discuss with a healthcare practitioner if you have a medical condition such as heart conditions and others, as some medical conditions are contraindicated. There are local Facebook groups, such as the Crocodile Club, which can be helpful to connect, meet, and dip with others.
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