We all know and love the benefits of a warm bath. Whether or not it is filled with bubbles, scented sea salts, or rubber duckies, a warm bath can cure a host of ills.
Whether you have a cold, strained muscle or are just stressed out, the best prescription is often “go run a hot bath.”
But baths can extend beyond the home into a diverse range of treatments performed at spas, wellness centers, or hospitals.
These treatments are called hydrotherapy. And if you are a proponent of “a good bath cures all,” then keep reading because hydrotherapy is like a good bath on steroids.
What Exactly Is Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is the internal and external use of water at varying temperatures to address health issues. Hydrotherapy is also referred to as water therapy and can include treatments like saunas, steam baths, foot baths, contrast therapy, and hot and cold showers.
How Does Hydrotherapy Work?
For centuries, water has been used by cultures around the world to address health issues. People in Asia and Europe have a long-standing tradition of “taking the waters” at hot mineral springs.
The most basic description of how hydrotherapy works is this:
- Coldwater constricts superficial blood vessels, which moves blood flow away from the surface of the body down into the organs.
- Hot water:
- Dilates superficial blood vessels
- Activates sweat glands
- Removes waste from body tissues
What Are the Benefits of Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy has the potential to benefit people suffering from the following conditions:
- Issues that arise from participation in team sports
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- PMS and other menstruation problems
- Back problems
- Musculoskeletal conditions
- Colds, viruses, and coughs
- Upper body congestion
- Poor circulation
- Skin disorders
- Sore muscles and other muscle pain
- Stress and anxiety
Where Can I Get a Hydrotherapy Treatment?
Health centers and spas often offer a variety of treatments. There are treatments that you can learn to do at home.
For more extreme medical issues, your provider may prescribe hydrotherapy treatments that will be administered by therapists is a hospital setting.
What Kinds of Hydrotherapy Treatments Are There?
Let’s take a look at several types:
- Sitz Bath
- Warm Water Bath
- Turkish Bath
- Air Bath
- Warming Socks
- Contrast Hydrotherapy
- Hot Fomentation
- Hydrotherapy Pool Exercises
Watsu is an aquatic massage. You float in a warm pool while the therapist performs a variety of specialized massage techniques.
Sitz bath is a treatment that uses two tubs of water. One tub is filled with warm water and one cool. They are placed close together so that you can sit in one tub with your feet in the other tub.
After a set amount of time, you switch tubs. Sitz baths are great for relieving hemorrhoids, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menstruation problems.
Warm Water Bath
Warm water baths are simply a soaking bath. Depending on your condition, you soak in warm water for up to 30 minutes.
Depending on the desired results, Epsom salts, mineral mud, aromatherapy oils, ginger, moor mud, or dead sea salts may be added.
Steam bath (Turkish bath) is an “air bath.” As you sit in a steam room filled with warm, humid air, your body releases impurities.
Sauna is another form of an “air bath.” A sauna, however, uses dry, warm air to promote sweating.
Compresses are towels soaked in warm and cool water and then placed on targeted areas of the body.
- Cool compresses can be used to reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Warm compresses can be used to promote blood flow and ease sore muscles.
Wraps are performed with you lying down. The provider wraps your body up in a cocoon of wet sheets.
Then you are covered with dry towels and blankets. This treatment is particularly good for colds, skin disorders, and muscle pain.
Contrast hydrotherapy is the use of hot and cold water. This one you can do at home.
Before you finish your shower, decrease the water temperature to a level you can comfortably tolerate for 30 seconds (not icy cold).
You can then end your shower or alternate between warm and cool water for three cycles. Make sure to always end the process with cool water.
Warming socks are exactly what they sound like. Thoroughly wet a pair of cotton socks with water, then wring them out and put them on.
Place a dry pair of wool socks over the wet ones and go to bed. When you get up in the morning, remove all socks. This treatment is said to improve circulation in the body and help ease upper body congestion.
Hot fomentation is hot compresses or hot water bottles used to treat acute conditions such as chest colds and coughs. Also, not only can hot fomentation relieve symptoms, but it can also decrease the length of the illness.
Hydrotherapy Pool Exercises
Hydrotherapy pool exercises are exercises you perform in a warm-water pool. The warm water decreases gravity and offers gentle resistance.
Hence, providers often this treatment for back pain, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions. Hydrotherapy differs from water aerobics in that the exercises are slow and controlled and often performed under the guidance of a physiotherapist.
Are There Any Precautions I Need to Be Aware of Before Getting a Hydrotherapy Treatment?
And, although hydrotherapy tends to be a gentle treatment many can benefit from, there are a few conditions you want to talk to your provider about first. These include:
- Cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. Hydrotherapy causes an increase in blood flow, which may put additional stress on the heart.
- Those with acute injuries should avoid warming treatments.
- Kidney disease
- If you have a decreased sensitivity to hot and cold, avoid these treatments as you could get too hot or too cold without knowing it.
We Can Help
So, it’s always a good idea to discuss treatments with your provider before you get them. Not only can we help you know if the treatment is right for you and your body, but we may be able to direct you to a more specific type of treatment.