How can simple showers aid in brain injury recovery? Both extreme temperatures of the cold and hot shower promote the release of BDNF, which is like fertilizer for brain development. Switching on and off between hot and cold water has similar benefits to exercise in this regard. -- Cold showers also can help modulate the limbic system. The limbic system is the center of the brain that deals with emotions and memories. In situations like PTSD and chronic pain, the limbic system is in hyperdrive. Each moment spent in crisis mode tells the body that this is the “normal” mode, and to continue spending more time like this. This will continue to increase sympathetic “fight or flight” firing, which prevents healing and increases stress. -- A cold shower tells your brain that you are in crisis mode, similar to the original PTSD or pain event. However, you are obviously not in any danger. Relax. Calm yourself down. Use deep breathing and repeat to yourself that you are safe and this situation is fine. This rewires the brain to remember that even in a “crisis” situation, you are okay. This helps down regulate the limbic system and increase parasympathetic “rest and digest” firing. Over time, this will translate into the crisis response not overreacting to either the PTSD or pain events.
Write up by Kellie Pokrifka