Hydrotherapy refers to the use of water in treating diseases. This practice has been around for hundreds of years dating back to the ancient Roman and Greek empires. Hydrotherapy forms a very critical and integral part of many traditional medicine systems. It has been praised as being beneficial to health.
How Hydrotherapy Works
The mechanical and thermal effects of hydrotherapy are the pillars that define its healing properties. Hydrotherapy makes use of the reaction of the body to cold or hot stimuli, the sensation created by water, the pressure exerted by water and the protracted application of heat. The nervous system is the main carrier of the impulses around the body. These impulses which originate from the skin are carried deeper into the body where they stimulate the nervous system. This in turn provokes the production of stress hormones, encourages blood flow, lessens the body sensitivity to pain and improves digestion and circulation.
The main use of heat in hydrotherapy is to soothe and quiet the body as well as slow down the internal organs activity. Cold on the other hand, is used as a stimulant to invigorate and increase the rate of internal activity within the body system. For instance, if you feel that your muscles are tense or there are signs of anxiety, heat is recommended in the bath or shower. When you are feeling tired or stressed out, taking a warm shower or bath followed by a cold shower can help in stimulating the mind and the body.
There is a kind of weightlessness when the body is submerged in a water body such as a pool or bathtub. The water relieves the effects of gravity generated by your body. Apart from this, water has also been found to have a hydrostatic effect and a massage-like feeling experienced as the water kneads your body. The touch receptors located on the skin are stimulated by the moving water thereby enhancing blood circulation and reducing the tension in tight muscles.
Types of Hydrotherapy
There are several techniques used in hydrotherapy which include neutral baths, showers and baths, sitz baths, foot baths, contrast sitz baths, cold smitten friction rubs, hot compresses, steam inhalation, alternating hot and cold compresses, body wraps, salt glow and many others.
External Hydrotherapy – This is a type of hydrotherapy where the body is immersed in water or ice is applied to the body.
Temperature-Based Hydrotherapy – This hydrotherapy involves the different effects of cold or hot water on the skin and the underlying tissues. The hot water is instrumental in relaxing the muscles and causing sweating. This type of hydrotherapy is commonly used to treat rheumatism, sore muscles, poor circulation, arthritis and many other conditions. It is usually used with aromatherapy. Cold water hydrotherapy is commonly used to stimulate the flow of blood in the skin and in the underlying muscles. Temperature-based treatments involve the application of moist heat or cold to certain parts of the body. The process of applying moist heat is referred to as fomentation. This is used to cure conditions such as flu, arthritis and chest cold.
Cold compresses are usually used for conditions such as headaches, sprains or even in dental surgery.
Sitz Bath – This is where a patient is allowed to sit in a tub that is specially made. The tub allows the lower abdomen to be submerged in the water that has a different temperature from the water that is around the feet. Sitz baths are commonly used in conditions such as prostate swelling, haemmorhoids, menstrual cramps and any other genitourinary disorders.
Motion-Based Hydrotherapy – This type of hydrotherapy makes use of water that is under pressure for instance in a spa to massage the entire body. It is usually applied in conditions such as muscle and joint injuries, stress and anxiety.
Benefits of Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy has a number of benefits which include:
• Enhancing elimination of body wastes thereby assisting detoxification
• Loosening of tight and tense muscles thus encouraging relaxation
• Improving metabolic rate and subsequently digestion activity
• Cell hydration and improving muscle and skin tone
• Boosting of the immune system thereby allowing it to work efficiently
• Stimulating internal organs blood supply thus improving their functionality
Cold baths are great but should not be used for the elderly or young children. On the other hand, hot baths should be avoided by patients who have heart conditions.