fbpx Contrast Hydrotherapy for Peripheral Neuropathy | CCNM-ICC

Many of our patients who have been through chemotherapy describe an uncomfortable or even painful sensation of tingling, burning, or numbness in their hands and/or feet. This is a very common side effect of some drugs, called peripheral neuropathy, that results from damage to the nerves. Medications and integrative treatments such as acupuncture may be helpful but there’s also an easy at-home treatment that can help manage symptoms too – contrast hydrotherapy. 

The alternation of hot and cold water in contrast hydrotherapy works to reduce inflammation and promote blood and lymphatic circulation to the area, helping ease pain.  

What you’ll need:  

  • Access to hot and cold water 
  • Two bowls large enough for hands or feet to rest comfortably and be fully submerged in  
  • A towel to clean up splashes and dry your hands and/or feet after treatment 


  1. Prepare one bowl of hot water and one bowl of cold. Both should be relatively intense, but not painful nor able to burn you. Always test the temperature with your elbow or another area unaffected by neuropathy to make sure it’s safe. 
  2. Place hands or feet in the hot water for 3 minutes. 
  3. Transfer to cold for 1 minute.  The transition might sting – take some deep breaths!  
  4. If you can’t tolerate the full time, reduce each by half or more (e.g., 1.5 minutes in hot, 30 seconds in cold). Contrast hydrotherapy should be performed in a 3:1 ratio of hot to cold water. 
  5. Repeat for 2-4 cycles, ending in the cold bowl. You may need to add more hot water to the bowl as you go to maintain the temperature, but always remember to test the temperature first. 

Note: If you have diabetes, phlebitis, or circulatory disorders, please use this therapy with caution and consult with a health-care practitioner. Avoid if you have open wounds on the hands or feet. 

Author: Amira Diamond-Bier, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre Intern