What Is It?
Hydrotherapy is the use of water in the treatment of disease. Hydrothermal therapy additionally uses its temperature effects, as in hot baths, saunas, wraps, etc.
Hydro- and hydrothermal therapy are traditional methods of treatment that have been used for the treatment of disease and injury by many cultures, including those of ancient Rome, China, and Japan. Water therapy has been around for centuries. The ancient Greeks took therapeutic baths. Water is an important ingredient in the traditional Chinese and Native American healing systems.
A Bavarian monk, Father Sebastian Kneipp helped re-popularize the therapeutic use of water in the 19th century. There are now many dozens of methods of applying hydrotherapy, including baths, saunas, douches, wraps, and packs.
How it works
The recuperative and healing properties of hydrotherapy are based on its mechanical and/or thermal effects. It exploits the body's reaction to hot and cold stimuli, to the protracted application of heat, to pressure exerted by the water and to the sensation it gives. The nerves carry impulses felt at the skin deeper into the body, where they are instrumental in stimulating the immune system, influencing the production of stress hormones, invigorating the circulation and digestion, encouraging blood flow, and lessening pain sensitivity.
Generally, heat quiets and soothes the body, slowing down the activity of internal organs. Cold, in contrast, stimulates and invigorates, increasing internal activity. If you are experiencing tense muscles and anxiety from your stress, a hot shower or bath is in order. If you are feeling tired and stressed out, you might want to try taking a warm shower or bath followed by a short, invigorating cold shower to help stimulate your body and mind.
When you submerge yourself in a bath, a pool, or a whirlpool, you experience a kind of weightlessness. Your body is relieved from the constant pull of gravity. Water also has a hydrostatic effect. It has a massage-like feeling as the water gently kneads your body. Water, in motion, stimulates touch receptors on the skin, boosting blood circulation and releasing tight muscles.
Hydrotherapy and hydrothermal therapy are chiefly used to tone up the body, to stimulate digestion, the circulation, and the immune system, and to bring relief from pain. Descriptions of indications are given under individual method used.
Water seems to have special powers in getting rid of stress and rejuvenating our body. It affects the skin and muscles. It calms the lungs, heart, stomach, and endocrine system by stimulating nerve reflexes on the spinal cord.
Proof it works
Various case reports, observational studies, and a number of controlled studies provide some evidence of success in the use of hydrotherapy.
In a study of 40 persons at University of Minnesota, 85% of the participants preferred a whirlpool bath to a still bath. Only whirlpool was effective in reducing the participants' reactivity to stress although both still and whirlpool baths were effective in reducing anxiety.