The use of water in therapy has benefitted many for hundreds of years across numerous cultures, and for good reason. From Roman Baths to hot mineral springs, the healing properties of water are now an integral part of both traditional medical and alternative practices.
What is hydrotherapy?
Specifically, hydrotherapy is the use of water to relieve pain or discomfort and to promote overall wellbeing. Also known as water therapy, hydrotherapy involves the use of water at varying temperatures, therefore includes such treatments as; saunas, steam baths, foot baths, contrast therapy, hot and cold showers, and physical water therapy.
Within the medical world, physiotherapists and other practitioners use hydrotherapy for common conditions such as arthritis or rheumatic ailments. Although aqua aerobics might spring to mind, hydrotherapy as a medical treatment is different. The movements are slower and tend to be more focused on the area of your body that needs support. These slow, controlled movements also have a relaxing effect.
Although each treatment differs slightly, within each different type of hydrotherapy, the water plays a key role.
Types of hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy can take place anywhere from a spa, health centre, hospital or even at home with a walk-in bath. Some common types include;
Contrast Hydrotherapy: First invented by the ‘Father of Hydrotherapy’, Sebastian Kneipp in the 19th century. Hydrotherapy benefits when using alternating hot and cold water includes a decrease in inflammation and stimulation of circulation and lymphatic drainage. Many people often opt to use this treatment as part of their daily shower routine!
Hydrotherapy Pool: These are special exercises you do in a warm-water pool. The water temperature is usually 33–36ºC, which is warmer than a typical swimming pool and more like a warm bath. The warmer water provides gentle relief to back pain or arthritis whilst also allowing some mild resistance without the need to fight gravity.
Compresses or Wraps: This therapy involves using towels and flannels soaked in water. Warm compresses promote good circulation and blood flow, which can ease stiff muscles. Cool compresses reduce inflammation, whilst cold wraps are used for common colds & skin disorders. The hydrotherapy benefits here come from covering the body in cold wet flannels, then a layer of towels and blankets. The body heats in response until you begin to sweat. The increased sweat levels then allow for the elimination of toxins and for the blood to increase in circulation.
Sauna & Steam Rooms: Saunas use dry heat whilst steam rooms are filled with humid air. Both promote sweating for the excretion of toxins and impurities as well as helping to ease muscle pains.
A Warm Bath: Easily the most widely used type of hydrotherapy in the home. Soaking in warm water in a bath for up to 30 minutes using remedies such as Epsom salts, mineral mud, aromatherapy oils, oats, ginger, moor mud, and dead sea salts can support skin and muscular-skeletal conditions
The benefits of hydrotherapy are well documented, especially for supporting conditions common amongst the elderly. Here are our top 5 healing benefits of hydrotherapy:
- Bolsters the immune system
Hydrotherapy is known to increase blood flow and the circulation of white blood cells around the body. This, in turn, allows lymph, (a fluid containing infection-fighting cells which also collects waste materials) to move through the body effectively. This modulates the immune system, helping to fight infections and other illnesses.
- Relieves stress
A benefit of hydrotherapy often not given the platform it should, stress relief has incredible value when treating ailments in the body. Hydrotherapy treatment can be effectively used to treat illnesses caused by stress through benefits such as lowering blood pressure, maintaining normal blood sugar levels and improving sleep quality.
- Relieves pain and reduces muscle tension
During our day to day lives, we are constantly battling the effects of gravity, which we feel more as we age. However, all this is eased when we step into water. The weightlessness you feel during a hydrotherapy treatment can increase your movement capabilities, relieve the tension held in the limbs and pressure on joints, as well as providing support for aching muscles. The clear benefit of hydrotherapy is that this stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever, further reducing any soreness in the muscles. Many people use this as a great way to recover post-exercise by having a long soak in a warm bath.
- Rehabilitation for injuries and conditions
The use of heated water increases the blood flow, alleviating pain and improving circulation. This has been shown to help heal injured tissues, reduce swelling and support the rehabilitation of injured joints and muscles. Furthermore, hospitals are known to use hydrotherapy effectively in the treatment of many conditions such as;
- Lower Back Pain
- Hypermobility Syndrome
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Fibromyalgia syndrome
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Post fracture/orthopaedic surgery
- Detox Benefits
The hydrotherapy treatments which encourage sweating, such as steam rooms, saunas or even a hot bath or shower, are inducing one of the body’s primary detoxification pathways and therefore helps to eliminate toxins. This has been shown to cleanse the body but further studies have also indicated how this can actually lower one’s risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
How to make the most of hydrotherapy benefits
Many seniors like to take advantage of hydrotherapy by attending a spa, health centre or even on a relaxing holiday. However, at Bathing Solutions, we can include hydrotherapy (or ‘spatherapy’) as a luxury option in your walk-in bath. Learn more about this and our other luxury options here.