immersion in cold water It is an activity that divides people: some love it and others hate it. But the truth is that there are many who practice it weekly, or even daily, convinced that it is positive for their mental and physical health.
It is convenient to take a nap to be a good athlete
Also called cryotherapy, cold water immersion can consist of swimming outdoors – in lakes, rivers or the ocean – taking cold showers or even soaking in an ice bath. For a long time, athletes they use it for reduce muscle pain and accelerate the recuperation spending about ten minutes after exercise in cold water at about 10-15°C.
Additionally, cold water immersion has also been used to help treat symptoms of depression, the pain and migraine. In fact, there are many accounts of how cold water therapy has changed lives, healed broken hearts and helped people in difficult moments.
Although many studies have identified benefits related to ice baths and recovery from exercise, a 2014 study found that it could be a placebo effect.
Actually, research on the potential benefits of cold water therapy or outdoor swimming is in its early stages and still there is no scientific data to support it.
cold water hazards
For any activity that claims to have a therapeutic effect, the minimum requirement is that it “do no harm”. Well, that’s something we can’t say about cold water, which involves quite a few risks.
In fact, everything points to less is more when it comes to cold water immersion. In other words, soaking in colder water or staying in it for longer is not better for you. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.
One of the little-known problems associated with immersion in cold water is what is known as non-freezing cold injury. When we are exposed to the cold, it is normal for the hands and feet to feel very cold or numb and to feel tingling or pain when they warm up again. For most people, these symptoms are temporary, with normal sensations returning within a few minutes. But for people with non-glacial cold injury, these symptoms (pain, altered sensation, and cold sensitivity) can persist in affected areas for many years due to damage to the nerves and Blood vesels.
Its cause is prolonged exposure to cold and wet conditions such as those found in trenches during wars, hence its nickname “trench foot.” However, not only the military are prone to it, there have also been cases recently in people who sleep on the street and in those who practice watersports.
Another issue is that it is not known how cold is too cold when it comes to cold water immersion and non-freezing cold injuries. There are also many differences in the way our individual bodies respond to cooling. For example, people of African and Caribbean origin appear to be more susceptible to non-freezing cold injuryso the risks of cold exposure vary from person to person.
However, it is encouraging that a 2020 study of cold-water swimmers indicates that, although they may have sensitivity to cold, this was not associated with damage to the skin blood vessels.
Tips for swimming in cold water
If you decide to try cold water therapy, there are some tips to keep in mind:
- Consult with the family doctor beforehand to confirm that it is safe in our particular case.
- Make sure you are not alone during the dive and, if you are outdoors, be aware of tides, currents, waves, underwater obstacles, pollution and jellyfish.
- Plan how we are going to get in and out of the water safely: the muscles will not work as well with the drop in temperature and we could lose feeling in our hands and feet.
- Make sure you have towels, dry clothes, windbreaks, a hot drink and a place to shelter when you leave. Do not drive or ride a bicycle until you warm up.
- Spend only a short time in the cold water and get out before you experience numbness, pain, or chills.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. you can read it here.