I come from a strongly Finish and Italian family. I have 3 middle names Toivo Olavi Maki, all of which are Finish. I traveled to Finland when I was 13 to spend time with family and experience my homeland. What I found very interesting about Finnish culture is how integrated Saunas are in society. 99% of Finns sauna at least once a week. There are 3 million saunas for a country with only 5.3 million people. Finns believe that saunas are a key part of staying healthy and removing toxins from the body. Using a sauna for 15 minutes can increase your white blood cell count; which can boost your immune system, alleviate chronic pain, and increase joint mobility. A traditional Finnish sauna routine consists of getting in the sauna for 15-20 minutes then jumping into a ice cold body of water for 2 minutes. Ultimately, this fluctuation of hot and cold temperatures has a great neurological effect on the body. Ice cold temperature on injuries have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect allowing for faster recovery times and pain reduction. Getting back to my roots was especially helpful after sustaining a massive concussion and neck injury when I was 17.
1 Sauna for every 1.76 people in Finland
Months after the initial injury I was still facing severe nerve pain on an hourly basis. I had hit my head more than 5 times and suffered a compression fracture to my neck. I developed something called allodynia (hypersensitivity of the nerves). This is a terrible condition to have especially when it's associated with a head injury. Imagine a simple pat on the back feeling like nails exploding in your brain. It's something that is very hard to explain to people because unless you are going through it, it seems as if you are exaggerating.
After many failed prescriptions and medications, one of my doctors recommended treating my pain with hot and cold therapy. I used this fluctuation between hot and cold just like the Finns do, but to treat my allodynia and nerve pain from my post concussion syndrome. The effects were incredible, giving me relief from my headaches and toned down my allodynia. I used this treatment of about twice a day for six months with great success. Not only was I reducing my pain levels, but I was becoming much more energized. In addition to this hot and cold therapy, I take daily cold showers. I find many of the same benefits come from this, and it's much easier to integrate into your daily routine. Cold showers have shown to Increase your bodies circulation, immune system, mood, and alertness.
If you don't have access to a sauna dont worry. You can get similar results from a hot shower and an ice bath. For me I would put my head and or body into a tub of water and ice. Sometimes I will just use a sink, submerging my head for headache relief. Generally I will hold myself under for 30 seconds - 2 minutes (you may get a brain freeze, but trust me its worth it) and jump into a hot shower. I would repeat this process until my pain resided.