One possible method of speeding recovery of sore muscles or injured tissue is termed contrast therapy – that is, the alternating application of heat and cold to your body. The theory behind this treatment method suggests that heat will act as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow and nutrient delivery to tissue, whereas the cold will act as a vasoconstrictor, diverting blood to your body’s core and promoting recycling of waste products, thus promoting tissue repair. While the scientific evidence towards the effectiveness of this treatment is not unanimous, many athletes report feeling rejuvenated and better recovered after a hard workout or race when they have used contrast therapy.
This type of treatment can be done by using an ice bath and warm tub, taking a contrasting hot/cold shower, or applying hot and cold packs to the area of interest. Using the first method at home is not very practical for most people. Although I hate to promote excessive water consumption, my preferred method would be the contrasting cold/hot shower. It is easy, quick, and convenient (I think it’s safe to say most of us shower after a hard workout anyways!). To do this, you simply stand under the shower with the water as cold as you can stand it, and then as warm as you can stand it, alternating this cycle several times. Different sources will recommend different amounts of time, but resting for 30 seconds at each temperature is a common recommendation. Repeat the cycle three or four times. If you chose to use hot and cold packs, you can relax with your feet up on the couch, spending a couple of minutes at each temperature before switching (again repeating the cycle three or four times). Give this a try and see if it works for you.