What is Hydrotherapy and How Does It Work?
Hydrotherapy involves the use of water to treat various conditions, such as arthritis, rheumatic complaints and other ailments. Although it resembles swimming, it is different because it requires the individual to undertake different exercises in a warm pool of water. The water temperature in the pool is approximately 33–36ºC. This water is much warmer than what you will encounter in a normal swimming pool. Hydrotherapy treatment is usually conducted in a hospital’s physiotherapy department. A physiotherapist who has specialized training administers the exercises. You’ll often find other movement health practitioners can also administer these specialist treatments, including our trained exercise physiologist in Brisbane and Livewell Owner, Brendan McCann.
How Does Hydrotherapy Work?
Hydrotherapy relies on its mechanical and thermal effects, in order to induce healing. It takes advantage of the body’s reaction to cold or hot stimuli, the pressure exerted by water, the protracted application of heat as well as the sensation of the water. These sensations and effects are then carried deeper into the skin by nerves.
When this happens, these sensations stimulate the immune system, thus influencing the release of stress hormones, while improving digestion, circulation and blood flow, as well as reducing the body’s sensitivity to pain. In most circumstances, heat is used to soothe and quiet the body, while slowing down the activity of internal organs.
On the other hand, cold is used to invigorate and stimulate, thus increasing the body’s internal activity. Therefore, if you are suffering from anxiety and tense muscles, you should bathe with hot water. If you are feeling stressed out and tired, you should shower with hot water, followed by a short cold shower. This stimulates the mind and body.
When you are submerged in water like a pool or a bath, you experience some kind of weightlessness. During this period, the water relieves the body of gravity’s effects. In addition, water induces a hydrostatic effect, as well as a massage-like feeling, as it kneads your body. Moving water stimulates the skin’s touch receptors. This effect increases blood circulation while releasing tight muscles.
Types of Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy is divided into two main categories. These are external hydrotherapy and internal hydrotherapy.
This is the application of ice or water to the body. It also involves immersion of the body in water. It therefore aims at using temperature based hydrotherapy techniques, such as the effects of hot and cold water on the skin as well as the underlying tissue. When used, hot water causes sweating and relaxes muscles. It is a very effective method of treating poor circulation, arthritis, rheumatism and sore muscles, and is often combined with aromatherapy.
On the other hand, cold-water hydrotherapy helps to stimulate underlying muscles, as well as blood flow to the skin. Some of the common treatments based on water include the application of cold and moist heat, to various parts of the body. This treatment with moist heat is referred as fomentation. Fomentation is very useful when it comes to treating conditions like arthritis, flu and chest cold.
Ice packs or cold compresses are used to relieve pain associated with dental surgery, headaches and sprains. Body packs help to calm psychiatric patients and detoxification. External hydrotherapy is conducted in various ways. A sitz baths is one of the most common procedures. The patient sits in uniquely made bath where the abdomen is fully submerged in water.
These baths are recommended for treating hemorrhoids, menstrual cramps, prostate swelling and various other genitourinary conditions. There is also motion-based therapy, where high-pressure water is used to massage the body. This method is used to relieve stress and anxiety.
This form of therapy includes enemas and colonic irrigation. Steam baths are a also good example of internal hydrotherapy. Colonic irrigation involves cleaning the entire bowel. This helps to cure numerous digestive problems and conditions. Douching is another type of internal hydrotherapy. It directs a water stream straight to the vagina to cleanse the area. However, many practitioners do not recommend this form of hydrotherapy.
Benefits of Hydrotherapy
– It is a very effective method of treating long-lasting pain.
– It helps to loosen tense, tight muscles, while encouraging relaxation. It also increases the metabolic rate and the digestion activity. Hydrotherapy hydrates body cells while improving skin and muscle tone.
– Hydrotherapy boosts the immune system, thus enhancing its efficiency.
– It stimulates blood supply to various organs in the body.
Hydrotherapy has been used for many years to treat various health conditions. One of its main advantages is that it is natural and does not have any major negative side effects. Utilising hydrotherapy and other aquatic physical therapies means don’t have to swallow pills or go for expensive surgical procedures. However, if symptoms persist after treatment, it is advisable to seek professional medical care.