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The Contrast Bath


The contrast bath consists of immersing a body part alternately in hot and cold water. (The hot and cold water may be applied with wash cloths to body areas that cannot be easily immersed in water.) This treatment may be combined with the application of a poultice or a heating compress.

The blood vessels expand or dilate with heat and contract with cold-increasing the circulation or blood flow to the treated body part. The increased blood flow [1] enhances the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the body cells and [2] hastens removal of the cell's waste products. The result is increased cell metabolism and more rapid healing of the treated body part.

Treatment Indications

• Localized infections

• Muscle or joint injuries

• Arthritis

• Headaches (contrast bath to the extremities)

• Edema (swelling of a body part due to fluid retention)

• Blood vessel disease of the veins or arteries to the legs and feet

Treatment Precautions

• Do not use very hot or very cold water in cases of loss of feeling (numbness) or blood vessel disease of the legs and feet.

• Be careful not to spread infection; disinfect equipment after treating an open sore or wound.

• Avoid treating any area where there is a tendency to bleed or haemorrhage.

• If the treatment is to be followed by massage to the body part, end the treatment with the hot water bath.

Equipment Needed

• Two large basins for the hot and cold water

• Tea kettle or pitcher of hot water

• Towel

• Sheet or light blanket

• Another basin of cold water and 2 washcloths for a cold compress to the head

Treatment Procedure

1. Preparation for treatment

• Have the room warm and all equipment assembled.

• Explain the procedure; assist the patient in preparation for treatment.

2. Treatment

• Encourage confidence in the divine remedies by beginning each treatment with prayer.

• Begin with the hot water bath. Start with milder heat; increase the heat as tolerated. After 3 to 4 minutes-or the specified time-transfer to the cold water bath for 1/2 to 1 minute.

• During the treatment, keep the hot and cold baths at the desired temperature by adding hot or cold water as needed.

• Place a cold compress to the head if sweating occurs.

• Make 5 to 7 changes per treatment. Treat 1 to 4 times per day.

3. Completion of Treatment

• After the last change, thoroughly dry the treated body part.

• If sweating occurs, dry the entire body; remove damp clothing, and dress in clean dry garments.

• Rest for 30 to 60 minutes after each treatment.

Specific Treatment Recommendations

Localized Infections, Muscle and Joint Injuries

Treat acute muscle and joint injuries with ice or cold packs, rest, and elevation of the affected body part for the first 12 to 24 hours.

• Begin the contrast bath treatment with water as hot as can be tolerated.

• Alternate from hot to cold water 5 to 7 times. End with the cold water bath.

• Repeat the above treatment 2 to 4 times per day.


Begin the treatment with warm water (3 to 5 minutes); then change to cool water for 1 minute. Gradually increase the hot water temperature and reduce the cold water temperature as tolerated.

Alternate from hot to cold water 5 to 7 times. End with the hot water bath.

• Repeat the above treatment 1 to 2 times per day.

Decreased Circulation (Blood Flow) to the Extremities

• Treat with mild heat for 3 minutes and cool water (no ice) for one minute. Test the hot water with your elbow to be certain that it is not too hot.

• Alternate from hot to cold water 5 to 7 times. End with the hot water bath.

• Repeat the above treatment 1 to 2 times per day.





Increases blood flow

Increases inflammatory response

Increases edema production

Increases hemorrhage

Decreases muscle spasm and pain

Decreases stiffness in arthritis



Decreases blood flow

Decreases inflammatory response

Decreases edema production

Decreases hemorrhage

Decreases muscle spasm and pain

Increases stiffness in arthritis