I had an interesting question posed to me today. “Can you use KAATSU when doing cold water immersion?” My thoughts are that perhaps the two don’t go together.
Peripheral blood vessels constrict during cold water immersion (CWI) as blood is pulled to the core of the body to help keep organs warm.. During KAATSU, peripheral blood vessels are expanded the pressure of the KAATSU Air Bands reduces the venous flow of blood from the limbs back to the heart. Using KAATSU during CWI doesn’t seem to make sense.
There are some fitness devices (i.e. Vasper) that use a combination of compression and cooling. However, those devices don’t immerse you in cold water. Cold water is pumped through the compression pads, as well as through pads on the seat, but that doesn’t cause the same physiological effect as CWI. The effect of the cooling pads is to cool the body, but I don’t believe the cooling has the same degree of vasoconstrictiveness as CWI does.
KAATSU is most certainly used in water. Many swim teams use KAATSU as part of their training and recovery routines. The usual KAATSU effect is felt when in a regular temperature swimming pool. Would the same occur when having an ice bath or other form of cold water immersion? I don’t know, and I don’t know of anyone who has tested the two together.
While KAATSU / BFR and cold water immersion are both becoming more popular and trendy, I haven’t seen any evidence that using these modalities together is effective. It’s possible the combination could be harmful, so I would suggest those who are wondering to check with a doctor familiar with both the physiological effects of KAATSU and CWI to provide more guidance.