Hydrotherapy is a term for various treatments using water to cure different health issues. It falls under the category of alternative medicine and is used along with traditional treatment or alone. Water can be used in any form, under any pressure, any temperature, externally and internally to treat a wide range of problems. Hydrotherapy can be done simply at home, for example, using hot water for body aches or in a great professional environment with advanced gadgets like saunas. Hydrotherapy mainly uses the physical properties of water to suit the patient’s needs. Thus, the application of water for therapy dramatically varies depending on the condition to be treated. It may be used as a form of physiotherapy, cleaning service, mind relaxation, and simply for hot and cold fomentation. The chief principle of water therapy is the beneficial effects of hot and cold water on the body. Hot water can relieve pain and congestion, control inflammation, improves circulation, cause dilation of blood vessels, increase joint flexibility, and promote sweating. On the other hand, cold water leads to constriction of blood vessels and reduction of inflammation.
The ancient civilizations often used water for therapy. The famous Greek physician Hippocrates even wrote about the benefits of bathing in hot springs. In the eighteenth century, Sir John Floyd, an English physician, commented on the efficacy of cold spring water on health problems and even wrote a book about the same. Doctor J. Currie of England published his work describing hot and cold water to reduce fever. It formed the basis of the hydrotherapy as we know it today. A common notion in the 1700s was that water could heal wounds and skin imperfections. In the mid-1800s in Germany, Vincent Priessnitz broadly popularized the age-old practice of water cure. He started his famous hydropathy clinic, which became a destination for numerous patients looking for cures. This initiative by Priessnitz became so successful that word about it spread throughout Europe and even America. Following the footsteps of Priessnitz, another doctor from Germany named Sebastian Kneipp opened his hydropathy facility. However, Kneipp’s approach was much gentler and encompassed mental healing in addition to physical healing. Around the same time, Captain Claridge from England toured most parts of Europe and spread the word about the benefits of the water cure. Interestingly, it was John Harvey Kellogg who promoted hydropathy in America.
Practitioners of hydropathy claim that it has many benefits on particular diseases and the overall well-being of an individual. Some of the benefits are as follows:
Pain relief: Using hot water, a method of hydrotherapy alleviates joint aches, muscle pains, and swelling. Hot water relaxes muscles and improves blood flow to the affected area.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: Performing aquatic exercises has enormous benefits in knee osteoarthritis. Patients who engage in aquatic exercise daily experience better joint mobility and lesser pain. For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, doing aquatic exercises and their medications improved symptoms considerably and even slowed the disease progression.
Mental health improvement: Hydrotherapy like water exercises like swimming have many benefits not only on the body but the mind. They uplift the mood, help patients with depression, and relieve tension, stress, and anxiety. A study showed that specific water activities helped patients with fibromyalgia.
Sports recovery: Athletes often use different hydrotherapies and alternate between hot and cold baths to deal with muscle soreness after intense games or workout sessions.
In pregnancy: Pregnant women should avoid overuse of medications and thus, may benefit from using hydrotherapies to relieve pain and relax their minds and bodies.
There are many types of hydrotherapies, some of which can even be performed at home. Some of the common types include aquatic exercises. It is the practice of exercising underwater in a pool. Due to the buoyancy of the water, this method allows the patient to exercise with much less resistance.
Hot water bath: It may be done by either taking a hot shower or soaking oneself in a tub of warm water. Balneotherapy: The practice of immersing a person in mineral salt-rich water or water from natural springs for therapeutic purposes is balneotherapy.
Sitz bath: It is a warm or cold water bath by soaking in a shallow tub.
Saunas: In saunas, an individual usually sits in a hot room at a particular temperature to release toxins through perspiration.
Colonic water therapy: It is a method of passing water into the colon through the rectum using special equipment. It detoxifies the gut and promotes good bowel movement.
Compress: In this type of water therapy, a cloth soaked in hot or cold water is wrapped around the affected area. It promotes blood circulation and diminishes swelling.
Water Circuit therapy: This therapy includes the use of different hydrotherapies sequentially for improved efficacy.
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