Contrast baths are a special form of therapeutic heat and cold that can be applied to distal extremities. The effectiveness of contrast baths is thought to be due to reflex hyperemia produced by the alternating exposure to heat and cold. Although a variety of applications are possible, contrast baths often are used in treatment programs for rheumatoid arthritis and reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
The use of contrast baths is considered medically necessary to desensitize patients to pain by reflex hyperemia produced by the alternating exposure to heat and cold.
Specific indications for the use of contrast baths include:
- the patient has rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory arthritis;
- the patient has reflex sympathetic dystrophy; or
- the patient has a sprain or strain resulting from an acute injury.
Standard treatment is 3-4 treatments per week for one month. Medical necessity must support additional treatments.