What is hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is a treatment involving the use of water for soothing aches and pains and treating diseases. When used in conjunction with heat, it is often referred to as ‘hydrothermal therapy’.
Hydrotherapy was used in the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilisations, although modern hydrotherapy is commonly attributed to Father Sebastian Kneipp, who in his 1889 book My Water Cure stated that water would ‘dissolve, remove and strengthen’ by dissolving matter-containing disease, removing diseased matter from the body and strengthening the body by restoring cleansed blood to the tissues and maximizing circulation.
There are many methods of applying hydrotherapy – such as using baths, saunas, wraps, and packs.
What is the purpose of hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy aims to exploit the body's reaction to hot and cold stimuli. Generally, heat soothes the body, thereby slowing down the activity of the internal organs. Cold, in contrast, stimulates and invigorates, increasing internal activity. For example, if you are experiencing tense muscles and anxiety from stress, then bathing in hot water might be just what you need. On the other hand, if you are feeling tired and want to be more alert, you could try taking a warm bath followed by an invigorating cold shower to help stimulate your body.
What are the benefits of hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy helps to get rid of stress and rejuvenates the body. It stimulates the immune system, improves blood circulation and digestion, reduces pain sensitivity and the production of stress hormones.
Hydrotherapy can act as a sedative – for example, a warm water bath can soothe you and aid sleep; an antipyretic, cold water can reduce body temperature; an analgesic, both hot and cold water can alleviate pain; an anticonvulsant, warm water can alleviate muscle spasms; and a derivative, both hot and cold water help to remove blood from one part of the body by increasing the blood flow elsewhere.
Today, hydrotherapy is not only used to reduce stress: it is also used to treat arthritis, burns and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as to treat recovering stroke patients. Also, submerging yourself in a bath, pool or whirlpool can help you to experience a kind of weightlessness, which will give your body some relief from the constant pull of gravity.