Ice Bathing vs Saunas – The Benefits & Risks

You have probably experienced different aches or pains that usually show up because of bad postures or muscle strain, or simply because of sudden moves. People generally choose different methods to get rid of these aches by regularly going to massages and heating therapies like saunas. Besides them, there have been a lot of discussions about healing different severe pains by adding ice to the suffering body areas. Probably there is a larger category of people who have tried the benefits of a hot bath or a sauna, than those that have chosen an ice bath as a healing treatment.

Why is sauna therapy recommended?

The Finnish culture teaches us that back in the history, sauna was just another way of bathing. The main idea of going to sauna sessions is excessive sweating and eliminating through the skin pores, all the toxic accumulations from your body.

Health benefits of sauna

    • Toxin release

Due to the raised temperature of the sauna, the body’s temperature starts rising and the blood vessels tend to expand, so the blood pressure increases. Due to this process, the nervous system starts sending signals to the sweat glands and your body starts eliminating toxins and harmful chemicals. This process is also known as the detoxifying process.
    • Helps the muscles relax

You might think that a workout session is able to lead to the same health benefits when sweating, but sauna’s effects on the muscles are different. This is the reason why sauna is recommended after intense physical exercises. It has a different technique of relaxing your muscles by reducing the tension they accumulate after a long period of physical effort. Heating has the ability to speed up the healing process and totally recreate your body.
    • Skin cleaning and smoothing

Besides giving a lot of health benefits, a sauna has the power to clean and rejuvenate the skin. During the the process of sweating, your dead skin cells are removed and replaced by new ones. The epidermal layer is cleaned and also the capillary circulation is improved.
    • It helps you sleep better

Because a sauna is able to totally relax your body and mind, the process of endorphins release tends to raise in the presence of high temperatures. This way you induce somehow your body to readjust its normal temperature. While your body is cooling down, you start feeling sleepy because you are generally relaxed enough for being able to enjoy a long and uninterrupted sleep during the night.
    • What about infrared saunas?

This method is used by numerous people, because it can give them the comfort of heating their bodies, without creating a lot of steam. An infrared sauna has the same health benefits like a traditional sauna, by heating up the body and penetrating the skin using infrared light waves.

Risks of using a sauna

    • Burning
Unfortunately is possible, so if you feel any uncomfortable sensation, you should probably stop. Also, avoid drinking alcohol before going to the sauna.
    • Don’t go to sauna if you suffer from different illnesses
Because heart, lungs or kidney affections might cause great damages to your health.
    • Dehydration
Can result because of excessive sweating, if you are not drinking enough water.
    • Limit your time spent in the sauna
Especially if you are a newcomer in this domain. Don’t spend more than 20 minutes on a session, even if you are regularly going to sauna.

Health benefits of ice bathing

    • Refines hair and skin

Cold has the ability to strengthen pores and cuticles. It can flatten hair follicles, giving it shine and making it healthier. Combination of cold water with a scalp massage can have beneficial results for your scalp and hair, due to blood circulation improvement.
    • Improves immunity and circulation

Bathing in cold water increases the metabolism rate and alerts the immune system to fight easier against viruses. Blood circulation improvement leads to stronger core muscles and stronger arteries.
    • Stimulates weight loss

When exposed to extreme cold conditions, the body has the tendency of fighting against hypothermia, using a high amount of energy. This energy is taken from the converted fats and carbohydrates which the body uses to generate warm and maintain itself at a regular temperature.
    • Prevents muscle soreness

Soaking your body in ice water helps you get rid of muscle soreness after an intense workout. This method is usually used by the athletes, because cold water reduces swelling and help them recover faster after a hard session of extreme physical effort.

Risks of ice bathing

    • Hypothermia
Is a risk that can show up as a result of a sudden contact of your body that has a regular temperature, with the water’s severe low temperature.
    • Arthritis or nerve pain
Is another risk of ice bathing, because the blood vessels constrict at extreme low temperatures.
    • Heart attacks
Or other heart complications are possible because the heart starts irregularly beating when your body is exposed to extreme cold, a phenomenon that is also known as „fibrillation”.
    • Frostbites
Generally occur under 0 °C. In this case, the water should start turning solid, but there are chances to be exactly at the freezing point, meaning that there are rare but possible chances to get frostbites.