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Hot and Cold Water Therapy Guide

Hot and Cold Water Therapy Guide

When professional athletes and active adults engage in exercise, sports and other physically intense activities, their muscles may become inflamed or injured. If you work in or own a facility that treats these issues, you understand that providing thorough and accommodating treatment options to these individuals is absolutely necessary. Though you may already offer other physical therapy options, delivering a range of modalities and types of therapy that provide instant relief will help you cater to these athletes’ immediate physical needs.

Millions of adults sustain injuries while engaging in sports and exercise annually. Sports injuries can be separated into two categories — acute injuries, like sprains and strains, and chronic injuries, which occur over the long term.

Though there are many ways to treat these injuries, some athletes may need more than standard recovery treatments so they can recover faster to perform optimally the next day. Thankfully, there’s a therapeutic modality that is accommodating and effective for competitors of all ages who seek safe and effective recovery methods — hot and cold water immersion therapy.

What Is Hot & Cold Water Immersion Therapy?

Of the many forms of therapies available, water-based immersion therapies are perhaps one of the oldest practices used to help the body heal. Evidence of hydrotherapy practices dates back as early as 2400 B.C., when Proto-Indian cultures did it. Since then, the Japanese, Romans, Greeks and other cultures utilized this therapy method for medicinal purposes. Hydrotherapy has been used for modulating cellular immunity, healing wounds and injuries, relaxing muscles and joints, and increasing blood flow.

Warm and cold water therapy is often used in an athletic setting. After a game or intense practice, an athlete can use a cold plunge pool to help their muscles recover faster. They may also immerse themselves in a warm water pool to allow their muscles to loosen up and relax prior to their next game. Unlike other forms of therapy, immersion therapy can yield immediate results. Many sports scientists believe that water immersion therapies provide health benefits to the body, including:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Reduced muscle damage, spasms and inflammation
  • Altered heart rate, blood flow and localized tissue and core temperature
  • A decrease in the perception of fatigue and pain linked to muscle soreness

Three methods in which recovery hydrotherapy is used are warm water immersion therapy, cold water immersion therapy and contrast therapy. Though conceptually each involves an individual immersing themselves in pools of water to relieve themselves of pain or discomfort, the differences in water temperature yield different health benefits. If your athletic training or sports performance facility is focused on maximizing athlete performance while minimizing overuse or repetitive use injuries, you should consider the ways warm and cold water immersion therapy could benefit their recovery.

At HydroWorx, we understand you want to provide the best therapeutic treatment options at your facility. Though hydrotherapies like hot and cold water immersion therapy have been used as recovery methods for thousands of years, many people are unfamiliar with these practices and how they positively impact an individual’s health. We’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about warm and cold water immersion therapy so our clients can discover how these routines may benefit their clientele.

What Is Warm Water Immersion Therapy?

Warm water immersion therapy is a process in which an individual enters into a pool of heated water to allow their muscles and joints to relax. This warm water should have a temperature maintained safely above 92°F. Immersion in any bodies of water with temperatures exceeding 104°F is considered dangerous for all individuals.

What Is Cold Water Immersion Therapy?

Cold water immersion is a therapeutic method aimed at enhancing the body’s recovery process through the immersion of the body into cold water immediately following exercise. Some governmental sporting commissions have suggested an individual should immerse themselves in a cold water pool set at an optimal temperature between 50 – 59°F for durations of 5 to 10 minutes.

What Is a Hot or Ice Plunge Pool?

plunge pool is a relatively compact rehabilitation pool with a size ranging from 7’6″ x 7’6″ to 7’6″ x 14′. Plunge pools are designed for individuals to immerse themselves in a pool of water set at a specific temperature. These temperature variations are set to maximize the potential health benefits obtained. Some plunge pools are thermal pools set to warm temperatures while others are polar pools set to cold temperatures. These pools can come equipped with spa jets and massage hoses to provide additional therapeutic benefits.

What Is Contrast Water Therapy?

Contrast therapy is a combination of hot water and cold water immersion therapy in which an individual alternates soaking in pools of cold and warm water. Contrast therapy is commonly used by professional athletes during their post-exercise recovery periods. Runners, for instance, will engage in these therapeutic practices as it’s been found to be more beneficial than passive recovery methods.

The Benefits of Hot & Cold Water Immersion Therapy

It’s believed that warm water immersion can provide a number of health benefits. Along with encouraging relaxation, hot and cold tubs for athletes and others could also have positive impacts on cognitive behavior, such as memory and problem-solving, according to research.

Immersion in warm water prior to rest could also enable the body to fall and stay asleep more easily. As the warm water increases blood circulation, the heart rate rises while blood pressure lowers. This gives the body the increased heart rate needed for effective exercise without an elevation in blood pressure. The warm water allows the body to relax and the mind to decompress.

Cold water immersion therapy has been shown to provide key health benefits as well. This form of therapy immediately improves lymphatic and cardiovascular circulation. Proper circulation of the lymphatic fluid helps cleanse the body of toxins while increased blood flow prevents the heart from being burdened with muscular stress.

Cold water immersion may also provide positive psychological benefits. Cold water encourages the release of mood-elevating chemicals that are effective in treating symptoms of depression. Other advantages include reduced muscle inflammation and a boost in metabolism that burns calories.

Common Sports Injuries That Can Be Treated With Hot and Cold Water Therapy

Each year, hundreds of thousands of young adults compete in collegiate sports, a handful of them moving on to professional or Olympic-level competition. They’re not alone — many older adults are adopting lifestyles that focus on exercise and physical activity, adding sports and other recreational activities to their lives. Unfortunately, the frequency of activity raises the likelihood of developing an acute or chronic injury. The following are common injuries sustained in many popular recreational and professional sports.


The most common injuries in baseball include:

  • Muscle Strains
  • Meniscus Tears
  • Elbow Tendinitis 
  • Rotator Cuff Tendinitis
  • Labral Tears
  • Dead Arm
  • Oblique Strains


The most common injuries in football include:

  • Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion 
  • Lower Back Strains
  • Knee Swelling
  • Shoulder Strains


The most common injuries in basketball include:

  • Ankle Sprains
  • Jumper’s Knee
  • Achilles Tendon Injuries
  • Knee Ligament Injuries


The most common injuries in hockey include:

  • Groin and Hamstring Pulls
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Shoulder Joint Strains
  • Knee Sprains


Common Running Injuries

The most common injuries in running include:

  • Hamstring Strains
  • Tibial Stress Fractures
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Shin Splints


The most common injuries in golfing include:

  • Back Strain
  • Elbow Tendinitis
  • Knee Strain
  • Sunburn
  • Hip Injuries
  • Neck Strain
  • Hand, Finger and Wrist Strain
  • Shoulder Strain


The most common injuries in tennis include:

  • Tennis Elbow
  • Stress Fractures
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Shoulder Strains


The most common injuries in soccer include:

  • Shin Splints
  • Achilles Tendinitis
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Knee Strains


The most common injuries in volleyball include:

  • Ankle Sprains
  • Ligament and Tendon Strains
  • Jumper’s Knee
  • Finger Jams, Dislocations and Fractures
  • Lower Back Strains
  • Shoulder Strains


The most common injuries in gymnastics include:

  • Wrist, Hand and Finger Injuries
  • Knee and Lower Back Strains
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Burners and Stingers

Water Immersion Therapy for Athletes

After a game or work out, many athletes require post-exercise recovery options to alleviate muscle and joint pain or soreness. In fact, in order for these athletes to maximize their performance during competition, they must balance their physical activity with adequate recovery maintenance. Standard recovery rest time is typically 48 hours, which means an athlete should wait two days before working those muscle groups again. However, some athletes may be unable to accommodate that period of rest, especially if they compete or exercise many times per week.

Instead of inconveniencing their training by adhering to the standard recovery rest time, many athletes use cold water immersion therapy to recover after engaging in intensive exercise. When runners were treated with cold water immersion immediately following their workout, they performed at higher levels. All athletes, regardless of sport or activity, could benefit from cold water immersion therapy to alleviate muscle soreness and swelling.

Although many athletes participating in outdoor sports like track, football and soccer are susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, those performing in exceedingly hot regions may be at an increased risk. Strenuous activity combined with a hot environment can result in heat-related injuries, especially for those who travel for a game and can’t adapt to severe temperature changes. Cold water immersion can be used as an effective intervention and treatment option for athletes suffering from heat stroke.

Research has shown cold water immersion therapy is better suited to assist in exercise recovery performance than hot water immersion. However, many athletes use contrast therapy for their recovery. Contrast wet therapy has been shown to be more effective than passive recovery. Alternating from cold to hot pools:

  • Alters tissue temperature and blood flow
  • Reduces inflammation 
  • Improves range of motion

It can also reduce the perception of fatigue, which may enhance subsequent training. 

There is also evidence that alternating hot and cold water immersion therapy may be an effective recovery treatment for athletes. Contrast water therapy has been shown to reduce the severity of acute injuries. Vasodilation, the dilation of blood vessels, and vasoconstriction, the constriction of blood vessels, may stimulate blood flow to reduce muscle swelling and repair the strained or damaged area in the post-recovery process.

What Kind of Equipment Is Used in Hot and Cold Water Therapy?

If you’re considering upgrading your facility, rehabilitation center or athletic complex with new hot or cold water plunge pools, you’ll find effective hydrotherapy equipment at HydroWorx. Our combined thermal and polar therapy pools can promote rapid recovery without inconveniencing your clients by having to enter and exit multiple pools. ThermalPlunge and PolarPlunge pools are available in three size configurations, allowing multiple patients or care staff to immerse themselves simultaneously. Our sizes are:

  • 7’6″ x 7’6″
  • 7’6″ x 7’9″ 
  • 7’6″ x 7’6 x 14″

HydroWorx ThermalPlunge pools provide your patients with the ideal environment for their muscles to relax and recover. Our ThermalPlunge pools are innovatively designed to heat muscles and tissue to restore blood flow to the body through increased circulation. Warm water is effective in reducing stiffness, pain and spasms throughout the body. We utilize thermal heating units that maintain a relaxing temperature between 94 – 104°F. You can also choose to equip an attachable massage hose to provide your clients with a deep, penetrating massage to soothe sore muscles. 

HydroWorx PolarPlunge Pools are exactly what your clients need to revitalize their muscles after any intensive exercise or therapy. We’ve filled these pools with spa jets that are strategically positioned to provide a soothing massage. Our polar chiller system maintains the therapy pool temperature at a therapeutic 50°F to help reduce joint inflammation and increase muscular recovery. HydroWorx PolarPlunge pools are used by many professional sports teams, including the Ottawa Senators, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Detroit Lions.

We know that in order for your facility to continue providing the best healthcare possible, you require reliable therapeutic equipment that will withstand rigorous use. All HydroWorx product lines were created with your patients in mind. They are constructed for superior strength and durability and are ready to perform at optimum efficiency for years to come. We offer a first-year parts and labor warranty, a five-year structural warranty and additional extended warranty and service plans for all of our products.

Discover the Benefits of Water Immersion Therapy With Plunge Pools From HydroWorx

History has shown individuals have seen significant health benefits from hot and cold plunge pools. Used by ancient cultures several millennia ago as well as many of today’s finest athletes, warm and cold water immersion therapies provide individuals with an opportunity to manage their pain and recover from exercise. Plunge pools also offer exceptional outcomes for those in senior living facilities, military institutions, athletic clubs and rehabilitation centers. Our ThermalPlunge and PolarPlunge pools are ideal solution for facilities seeking the perfect way to conduct water immersion therapies.

HydroWorx provides aquatic therapy pools that can offer your patients an effective alternative therapy option that uses the natural healing properties of temperature-controlled water to alleviate their discomfort and increase their quality of life. We’re proud to partner with professional sports teams, academic institutions, governmental agencies and acclaimed medical centers to provide individuals of all ages and health conditions a method of treatment that accommodates physical limitations. Speak with a representative today to discover how HydroWorx aquatic therapy and fitness products can help your clients and receive a free information kit.


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