Health – Hydrotherapy — The Contrast Bath

“For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 30:17.

“Through the agencies of nature, God is working, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, to keep us alive, to build up and restore us. When any part of the body sustains injury, a healing process is at once begun; nature’s agencies are set at work to restore soundness. But the power working through these agencies is the power of God. … When one recovers from disease, it is God who restores him.” My Life Today, 135.

Here is a natural remedy that works wonders with the human body. This simple explanation of using the contrast bath is found in the book, God’s Healing Way, by Mary Ann McNeilus, M.D. (Tenth Printing, 2004), 37-38. I pray that you will be encouraged to try hydrotherapy, a natural remedy.

In the Preface of this book, Dr. McNeilus shares the following incident:

Night Call

“One cold January evening in Minnesota, my husband and I were settled in by our cozy wood stove when the phone rang. The call was from one of our Amish neighbors. Their six-year-old daughter had developed a skin infection, which had rapidly spread from the ankles up to the knees within the past twenty-four hours. The parents had tried a few home remedies, but as the short winter day turned into dusk, their hopes faded into despair. Would I please come to see what else could be done? Quickly, I packed my medical bag with poultice materials and herbal teas. Cautiously driving over the narrow snow-covered gravel road, I headed for their old weathered farmhouse.

I found the little girl sleeping on a small cot in the middle of the dimly lit room. A worn blanket covered her shoulders leaving both lower legs exposed, as even the weight of a thin sheet on the sore limbs would have been unbearable. The little legs were swollen to nearly twice their normal size. Clear fluid was seeping through the pores of the taut, reddened skin. I stood there for a moment, assessing the situation—the exhausted pain-weary child, the anxious faces of the parents, and the solemn siblings hovering around the small quiet form. I silently sent up an urgent request for heavenly wisdom to meet this challenging situation. Then we went to work!

The parents were instructed to fill two large buckets, one with hot water and the other with cold water. The infected legs and feet were to be immersed alternately in hot, then cold water for a total of seven changes. This contrast bath was to be given four times during the day. After each water treatment, a charcoal or herbal poultice was to be applied to the infected area. We prepared garlic and other infection-fighting herbal teas to drink throughout the day. I also prescribed plenty of pure water and a nutritious diet—free of sugar, grease, and lard.

When I left the home later that night, the house seemed warmer and brighter. The family was filled with new hope and courage. When I returned the next morning, the father and mother happily reported that the pain in their daughter’s infected legs had definitely diminished. The family members faithfully gave water treatments, applied poultices, prepared teas, and strictly adhered to the dietary plan. The pain, redness, and swelling gradually disappeared without a single visit to the doctor’s office. This household was truly grateful for God’s wonderfully simple healing ways!

The Bath

The contrast bath consists of immersing a body part alternately in hot and cold water. (The hot and cold water may be applied with wash cloths to body areas that cannot be easily immersed in water.) This treatment may be combined with the application of a poultice or a heating compress.

The blood vessels expand or dilate with heat and contract with cold—increasing the circulation or blood flow to the treated body part. The increased blood flow (1) enhances the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the body cells and (2) hastens removal of the cell’s waste products. The result is increased cell metabolism and more rapid healing of the treated body part.

Treatment Indications

  • Localized infections
  • Muscle or joint injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Headaches (contrast bath to the extremities)
  • Edema (swelling of a body part due to fluid retention)
  • Blood vessel disease of the veins or arteries to the legs and feet

Treatment Precautions

  • Do not use very hot or very cold water in cases of loss of feeling (numbness) or blood vessel disease of the legs and feet
  • Be careful not to spread infection; disinfect equipment after treating an open sore or wound
  • Avoid treating any area where there is a tendency to bleed or hemorrhage
  • If the treatment is to be followed by massage to the body part, end the treatment with the hot water bathEquipment Needed
  • Two large basins for the hot and cold water
  • Tea kettle or pitcher of hot water
  • Towel
  • Sheet or light blanket
  • Another basin of cold water and 2 washcloths for a cold compress to the head

Treatment Procedure

  1. Preparation for treatment

  • Have the room warm and all equipment assembled
  • Explain the procedure; assist the patient in preparation for treatment
  1. Treatment

  • Encourage confidence in the divine remedies by beginning each treatment with prayer
  • Begin with the hot water bath. Start with milder heat; increase the heat as tolerated. After 3 to 4 minutes—or the specified time—transfer to the cold water bath for 1/2 to 1 minute
  • During the treatment, keep the hot and cold baths at the desired temperature by adding hot or cold water as needed
  • Place a cold compress to the head if sweating occurs
  • Make 5 to 7 changes per treatment. Treat 1 to 4 times per day
  1. Completion of Treatment

  • After the last change, thoroughly dry the treated body part
  • If sweating occurs, dry the entire body; remove damp clothing, and dress in clean, dry garment
  • Rest for 30 to 60 minutes after each treatment

Specific Treatment Recommendations

Localized Infections, Muscle and Joint Injuries:

  • Treat acute muscle and joint injuries with ice or cold packs, rest, and elevation of the affected body part for the first 12 to 24 hours
  • Begin the contrast bath treatment with water as hot as can be tolerated
  • Alternate from hot to cold water 5 to 7 times. End with the cold water bath
  • Repeat the above treatment 2 to 4 times per day


  • Begin the treatment with warm water (3 to 5 minutes); then change to cool water for 1 minute. Gradually increase the hot water temperature and reduce the cold water temperature as tolerated
  • Alternate from hot to cold water 5 to 7 times ending with the hot water bath
  • Repeat the above treatment 1 to 2 times per day

Decreased Circulation (Blood Flow) to the Extremities

  • Treat with mild heat for 3 minutes and cool water (no ice) for one minute. Test the hot water with your elbow to be certain that it is not too hot
  • Alternate from hot to cold water 5 to 7 times. End with the hot water bath
  • Repeat the above treatment 1 to 2 times per day.”

I thank Dr. McNeilus for a thorough, but simple, explanation of this procedure. May God bless each one of us as we learn the simple remedies, which have been provided for us to reach out and minister to others.

Increases blood flow Decreases blood flow
Increases the inflammatory response Decreases the inflammatory response
Increases edema production Decreases edema production
Increases hemorrhage Decreases hemorrhage
Decreases muscle pain and spasm Decreases muscle pain and spasm
Decreases stiffness in arthritis Increases stiffness in arthritis

The Hydrotherapy Advantage

  • It is easily applied to the skin surface
  • It has virtually no adverse side effects
  • It can treat a specific body part. Drugs are not as selective
  • It produces no toxins or waste products. As a result, it does not tax or overwork the liver or kidneys
  • It helps to eliminate toxins by increasing the body’s metabolism
  • It is inexpensive and readily available
  • It can be done in the convenience of the home
  • It imparts a sense of well-being! Drugs lack this effect