I always knew that a drop of cold water would crack a hot glass. But does this apply for our bones tho? Obviously not instantly, but after repeating it for years?

I've always wanted to do cold showers and drink cold water but I instantly have these annoying thoughts that my bones would crack overtime or that my teeth would shatter.

A phobia of a thermal shock I guess🙃.

However, I see people do ice plunges and spill iced water over themselves, and Islam makhashev going from laying on ice to the sauna: https://youtube.com/shorts/XFW29nSowAw?si=BkySqtRf2bKm5pjA

So I just wanna know does thermal shock apply to our bones? Would going from hot to cold or vice versa damage the performance of bones and joints eventually?

Also, I especially mean the spine. I Litterly cannot stand the thought that doing a cold shower would make my back like an old man's. Squicky and painful to move.


1 Answer 1


No is the answer to this - stop a think for a little bit. If this were the case, there would be many thousands of such incidents observed every year, and no-one would ever do such things as plunge into ice-cold water (there are plenty of videos of this on YouTube) or visit cold climates. Bones do not behave like glass. In addition, your bones are inside your body, where they are heated by your blood and body mass. Thermal shock does not apply.

Teeth on the other hand, can crack from cold, but it needs to be very very cold, much colder than you will ever experience unless you are visiting Antarctica in the depths of winter, or perhaps parts of the Arctic (Yukon, Siberia) in winter.

As far as I know, the only documented cases of this happening, happened to the members of Scott's Terra Nova party who went to Cape Crozier in the middle of winter to collect Emperor Penguin eggs in 1912. This was a side scientific quest apart from the attempt to be the first people to visit the South Pole, which was the main aim of the expedition. The best description of this trip to Cape Crozier is described beautifully in Apsley Cherry-Garrard's 1922 work The Worst Journey in the World (it is well worth the read, one of the best written memoirs ever).

During this voyage, the temperatures fell so low, that they weren't able to measure them accurately, but definitely below -75 F (-61 C), and resulted in their teeth cracking. For some frame of reference, your domestic freezer, where you might keep ice-cream and frozen meat runs at about -4 F (-20 C). I suspect this was a result of a number of things, not simply cold - first and foremost being dental hygiene, which was rudimentary at best in those days. Secondarily, they had poor diet while sledding in particular, so might not have had the strongest teeth. They also were very cold (so cold they had ice inside their sleeping bags) continuously for about 3 weeks, so were chattering and/or clenching teeth almost always, so putting a lot of strain on their teeth.

To quote the book from a couple of places:

They talk of chattering teeth: but when your body chatters you may call yourself cold. | can only compare the strain to that which | have been unfortunate enough to see in a case of lockjaw...

...I don’t know why our tongues never got frozen, but all my teeth, the nerves of which had been killed, split to pieces.

Now this is exceptionally rare. You are very very very unlikely to experience anything like this, under conditions of hardship such as these men experienced, certainly not from drinking cold drinks or taking a cold shower.


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