Hydrotherapy is an alternative or natural medical therapy where you use water in the treatment of disease. It is a therapy that been used for hundreds of years in many different cultures as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and has formed an integral part of many traditional medicine systems. The primary preventive medical benefits of hydrotherapy are as follows:
• Boosting the immune system, allowing it to function more efficiently in helping fight disease.
• Dramatically increasing the elimination of waste, thus assisting detoxification
• Loosening tense, tight muscles and encouraging relaxation
• Increasing the metabolic rate and digestion activity
• Hydrating the cells, improving skin and muscle tone
• Enhance the function of the internal organs by stimulating their blood supply
Conditions that are helped by Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy treatment works under the following illnesses and conditions:
• stomach problems
• joint, muscle, and nerve problems
• sleep disorders
It is also used for relaxation and to maintain a person’s state of health, so a powerful tool in preventive medicine and is excellent for reducing or relieving sudden or long-lasting pain.
How Does Hydrotherapy Work?
The healing properties of hydrotherapy depend on its mechanical and thermal effects. It makes use of the body’s reaction to hot and cold stimuli, to the protracted application of heat, to the pressure exerted by the water, and to the sensation of the water itself. Nerves carry what you feel by the skin deeper into the body, where it is then vital in stimulating the immune system, influencing the production of stress hormones, improving circulation and digestion, encouraging the flow of blood, and lessening the body’s sensitivity to pain.
Generally speaking, heat is used to quiet and soothe the body, and to slow down the activity of internal organs. Cold is used to stimulate and invigorate, increasing internal activity within the body. If you are experiencing tense muscles or anxiety, heat is good in the shower or bath. For feeling tired and stressed out, it is recommended to take a warm shower or bath followed by a short cold shower to help stimulate the body and mind.
When submerged in a body of water such as a bath or pool, there is a kind of weightlessness, as the water relieves your body of much of the effects of gravity. Water also has a hydrostatic effect and has a massage-like feeling as the water gently kneads your body. Water, when it is moving, stimulates the touch receptors in the skin, increasing blood circulation and releasing tight muscles.
Types of Hydrotherapy
Under the general heading of hydrotherapy, there are several techniques. These include baths and showers, neutral baths, sitz baths, contrast sitz baths, foot baths, cold mitten friction rub, steam inhalation, hot compresses, cold compresses, alternating hot and cold compresses, heating compresses, body wrap, wet sheet pack, and salt glow.
External hydrotherapy involves the immersion of the body in water or the application of water or ice to the body, while temperature-based hydrotherapy involves the different effects of hot or cold water on the skin and underlying tissues. Hot water relaxes muscles and causes sweating, and is used to treat arthritis, rheumatism, poor circulation, and sore muscles. It can use them in combination with aromatherapy. Cold water hydrotherapy is used to stimulate blood flow to the skin and underlying muscles. Temperature based treatments include the application of moist heat or cold to specific parts of the body. The application of moist heat is called fomentation and used for conditions such as chest cold, flu, or arthritis. Cold compresses or ice packs are good for sprains, headaches, or dental surgery. Body kits are used to calm psychiatric patients and for detoxification.
Sitz baths are where the patient sits in a specially made tube that allows the lower abdomen to submerge in water that is a different temperature to the water around the feet. These baths are good for hemorrhoids, prostate swelling, menstrual cramps, and other genitourinary disorders. Motion-based hydrotherapy uses water under pressure such as in a spa, to massage the body and is commonly used for muscle or joint injuries as well as for stress and anxiety. Internal hydrotherapy includes colonic irrigation and enemas. Steam baths are also a form of personal hydrotherapy.
Hydrotherapy exercises differ from swimming because it involves special exercises that you do in a warm-water pool. The water temperature is usually 33–36ºC, which is warmer than a typical swimming pool.
You’ll normally have hydrotherapy treatment within a hospital’s physiotherapy department. Usually, a physiotherapist or a physiotherapist’s assistant with specialist training will show you how to do the exercises. The focus of the activities can be adjusted to help your range of movement or strength, depending on your symptoms.
Hydrotherapy tends to be different to aquaerobics, which can be quite strenuous, as it’s more focused on slow, controlled movements and relaxation.
Contraindications for Hydrotherapy
Cold baths should not be for young children or the elderly. Sauna baths are not superb for people that suffer from heart conditions.