Yes. A study of the available literature found it helps reduce muscle soreness and strength loss after strenuous exercise when compared to groups of athletes who simply rested.
But is contrast water therapy better for recovery than other approaches?
Let’s dig in.
We considered a review of the available research entitled, Contrast Water Therapy and Exercise Induced Muscle Damage: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, and undertaken by Bieuzen et al.
Exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD) is a common occurrence after strenuous bouts of sport or physical performance. The resulting soreness and depleted muscle function can impact subsequent performances.
The objective of the researchers was to review the available research which considered Contrast Water Therapy (CWT), and met the criteria of the authors, as a modality for recovery from EIMD.
After screening, 46 pieces of research were assessed and considered for inclusion. Of those, 18 met the standard for eligibility:
The team divided the 18 studies into six different groups where Contrast Water Therapy was compared with:
These studies observed different outcomes including:
Findings Athletes Should Consider:
Contrast Water Therapy is an effective recovery modality when compared to rest.
The magnitude of benefits appears to be clinically relevant but may be most applicable to elite sports.
Other recovery modalities may be as effective, and possibly more convenient to administer for a given athletes circumstances.
More work is required to determine an optimal method of Contrast Therapy.
The researchers caution that some of the research include have small sample sizes and poor methodological quality.
Comparing Hot/Cold Therapy to Other Recovery Methods:
Here is the findings of the research review and meta-analysis when contrast therapy is compared to other common recovery approaches.
Contrast Water Therapy (CWT) vs Rest for Recovery:
Contrast Water Therapy (CWT) or Cold Water Immersion (COLD) for Exercise Recovery:
Contrast Water Therapy (CWT) or Warm Water Immersion (WARM) for Recovery
Contrast Water Therapy (CWT) or an Active Recovery (AR)
Contrast Water Therapy (CWT) or Compression (COMP) for Recovery
Contrast Water Therapy (CWT) or Stretching (STR) for Recovery
No Thanks – I’ll pay full price