Hydrotherapy, formerly called hydropathy, is a method of treating ailments with water. It can be used for relaxation or it can be used treat diseases and relieve painful conditions. It is closely related to hydrothermal therapy. This uses the temperature of the water to produce helpful effects. Hot baths, wraps, steam and sauna can be used for bring about healing effects.
What is hydrotherapy?
This concept is by no means new or untried. Hydrotherapy has been used by many world cultures for centuries. Ancient Romans and Greeks used it as well as the people of China, Japan and Egypt.
The ancient Greeks have a well-documented history of enjoying therapeutic baths. One famous Greek, Hippocrates –the father of medicine — advocated bathing in spring waters to relive illness. Egyptian royalty combined hydrotherapy with aromatherapy by putting essential oils and flowers in their baths. Ancient Romans famously partook in communal public baths.
These ancient healing rites enjoyed a resurgence of popularity when a 19th century Bavarian monk named Father Sebastian Kneipp began to advocate hydrotherapy. This revival led to many of our modern applications like wraps, hot baths, saunas, and steam baths and so on. Today we use water to treat many serious conditions including musculoskeletal injuries, spinal cord injuries, arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. It can also be used to help patient suffering from the effects of stroke, paralysis, burns and spasticity.
How it works.
The body responds to stress and pain by releasing chemical and hormones. This chemical soup causes the blood pressure to rise and the pulse rate to increase. Hydrotherapy helps stop the escalation of these symptoms. It also helps relax the muscles and soothes swollen joints. These effects make it easier for the patient to deal with pain.
Hydrotherapy can also aid in pain relief by stimulating endorphin production in the body. Endorphins are natural pain killers. These neurochemicals are released in the brain and have analgesic properties.
Blood circulation is also improved with hydrotherapy. Blood vessels dilate during treatment. Dilation allows a greater flow of oxygenated blood to flow into affected tissues and joints. Better circulation improves lymph drainage, which clears the body of damaging toxins.
Many conditions can be effectively treated with hydrotherapy. Inflammatory conditions like rheumatism and arthritis can be treated with this method. It can also aid patients with muscular problems like pain, cramps, tension and stiffness. Assorted problems like insomnia, sciatica and back pain (among many others) also frequently respond well to hydrotherapy.
Types of hydrotherapy.
Hydrotherapy can be performed through numerous methods. Most fall into one of two categories: immersion and application. Within these two categories there are several ways a patient can use hydrotherapy.
Full Immersion Bath
In this application, the entire body up to the shoulders is covered by water warmed to just under body temperature, around 90-95 degrees. Aromatherapy oils, sea salts, herbs or even special muds can be added to enhance the treatment. The patient remains submerged for about 20 minutes.
The patient sits in a bathtub, submerged to the hips. The water may be hot, cold or alternating temperatures. This works especially well on ailments of the abdomen.
Jets of water are directed at various parts of the body producing a massage-like effect. The jets are positioned at various heights and can be gentle or powerful to give the most relaxing experience.
To alleviate muscle pain and skin issues, a wrap can be an effective treatment. The patient is literally wrapped in a layer of cold, wet sheets and another of dry towels or blankets. After an hour or so, these are removed and the patient bathes.
Once again, the patient is wrapped in wet towels or sheets. The entire body may be wrapped or just the affected area. Often, the temperatures of the compresses are alternated form hot to cold to alleviate inflammation.
The feet are immersed to the ankle in this application. The temperature can be hot, cold or alternating. Heat works to relive aches and cold is good for tired feet. Alternating temperatures improve circulation.
The above methods are all external applications but hydrotherapy can also be applied internally. Drinking a certain amount per day is method. Colon therapy introduces water into the colon and then empties it out.
Hydrotherapy can be an effective method of treating many disorders, illnesses and complaints. It has many different applications and uses. This therapy is both ancient and modern and it can give patients excellent results.