Cold Therapy is a physical treatment method that can reportedly improve the feeling of wellbeing through the application of cold or ice to the body through either targetting a small area of pain and inflammation, or through a whole-body approach of taking of a cold shower, cold bath, or through immersion via a plunge pool or cold-water swimming.
Generally, a cold treatment such as a cold compress or an ice pack is used within healthcare environments to reduce inflammation and swelling following an injury or to reduce recovery times for athletes following athletic exertion. Athletes often use an ice bath after a major game in order to reduce the muscle inflammation and to help them recover more quickly so that they can continue training and prepare for the next match, event, or tournament.
The application of cold can also help to numb our nerve endings and therefore reduce the feeling of pain as received by our nerves.
The NHS considers localised cold therapy suitable for back pain treatment and sports injuries but does not list it as part of their mental health therapies. However, Cold Therapy, which is sometimes referred to as Cryotherapy, has become popular recently as part of the Wim Hof Method
The Wim Hof Method follows a three-pillar approach to improve wellbeing through cold therapy, breathing techniques, and meditation to help build up mental resilience. It is supported in its claims through various scientific studies (read more here) but there are of course dangers to be aware of such as affecting your blood pressure in a negative way or even hypothermia, so anyone attempting to follow a physical therapy programme should always consult their GP if they have any underlying health risks.
The idea behind the cold therapy is, that by having a cold treatment every day, you build up your tolerance for the cold and can increase the amount of time in the cold exposure from just a few seconds to eventually many minutes.
More research is needed but with the cold effect said to trigger the same endorphins as you get through vigorous exercise, it could be that cold therapy could play a significant role in at-home treatments for anxiety and depression.