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Contrast Baths

contrast bath sport injury

Contrast Baths

Contrast bath

You can think of using a contrast bath as an enhanced icing routine. This approach involves soaking the lower extremity in alternate cold and warm baths. This can help greatly in reducing pain and swelling.

Here’s a description of a basic contrast bath protocol:

  • Submerge the injured ankle in a bucket or bath of ice cold water for as long as you’re able to tolerate it. For most people this is usually about 2-3 minutes.
  • Next, move the limb into a second bucket or bath filled with lukewarm water. Never use hot water. It isn’t necessary, and the limb may be numb after the initial ice bath and may be susceptible to burning.Soak for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Follow this pattern for about 15 minutes. Always end on a cold soak for maximum swelling reduction. If possible, repeat this routine 2-3 times per day until full healing has occurred.

It’s thought by many sports physicians and physical therapists that this contrast bath combination works better than ice alone. When your tissue is exposed to cold, the blood vessels inside it shrink. When it’s exposed to warmth, they expand. By using alternating temperatures this effect can result in a pumping action which is thought to more effectively rid the area of excessive fluid.

Contrast baths also improve blood flow to the injured region, which speeds the healing process. Be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist, but this technique can be effective for a wide variety of orthopedic (joint) injuries.

In addition to contrast baths…


  • REST the injured ankle. Use crutches to limit weight bearing.
  • Apply ICE to limit excessive swelling.
  • Use COMPRESSION wrappings such as ACE bandages to help with swelling and add much needed support.
  • ELEVATE the ankle above heart-level when sitting or sleeping. This will help limit swelling and bruising.

If you still have pain, or if your foot or ankle is swollen call your Podiatrist immediately, 878-313-3338