Guide to Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a form of non-invasive healing that employs the use of water as a therapeutic agent. More and more conventional and alternative healing practitioners are using hydrotherapy to help patients with various health issues. The therapy can help you build muscle strength and develop ease of movement in addition to healing various discomforts and disorders. It is typically used to by physiotherapists to help their patients with different techniques including full body immersion, steam inhalation, and hot and cold compresses. Water therapy is possibly the oldest and safest of healing methods ever used.

What is Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy, also called hydropathy is derived from the Greek words, “hydro” which means water and “therapie” which is the word for healing. This healing modality helps you in many ways including improving your balance and muscle coordination. It employs the many properties of water in its different forms, namely steam, ice, and liquid water, both hot and cold to apply pressure on the body and infuse physical energy into the tissues. Most hydrotherapy healing sessions are given in a special swimming pool where the water temperature is maintained at a careful 33° to 36°C which is warmer than most other pools. The surrounding temperature is also kept at a comfortable 25° to 28°C to ensure that patients don’t feel cold.

Therapeutic Properties of Water

Hydrotherapy works on the premise that water has many properties that can heal muscles, joints, ligaments, and other tissues.  Here are some of them.

  • hydrotherapy poolWater can have different effects on the body. For instance, cold water and ice can cool while its liquid form at various temperatures can be used for immersion and compression. Steam can be used for steam baths and for inhalation.
  • Water can carry heat and energy and relay it to your tissues.
  • Water can be safely used even if you have sensitive skin.
  • Water can dissolve other elements like salts and minerals that add to its therapeutic properties.
  • Water can stimulate blood circulation and promote better oxygen flow to the affected muscles.
  • When taken in the form of a bath, spray, compress, or shower, water can help you relax because of its soothing and calming properties.
  • Water has buoyancy and can help lower the effects of gravity on your body, thus easing the pressure on your spinal column, joints, and ligaments. You’ll find that movements such as running, floating, and walking while immersed in water are much less painful. This is why; exercising in water is easier.

History and Origins of Hydrotherapy

Water healing or hydrotherapy and its many benefits have been recognized by humans for thousands of years. Ancient baths have been unearthed from the ruins of civilizations in Pakistan and India dating back to 4500 B.C. Documentation from the first century talks about people using steam baths and massages with aromatic oils. Rome was well known for the many bathhouses it had. Physicians in ancient Rome like Celsus and Galen have also written about using hot and cold baths to prevent and treat ailments and diseases.

People in the 17th and 18th centuries all over Europe frequented bathhouses while Americans began to employ their uses in the middle of the 17th century. In the early years of the 19th century, a priest from Bavaria began using cold water to treat his parishioners with cold water after the method helped him get cured of tuberculosis. Aside from writing about the therapy, he started a chain of hydrotherapy centers called Kneipp clinics that people still use today.

Another physician in Austria, Vincenz Priessnitz started a spa around the same period where he treated patients using packs, baths, and showers made from the waters drawn from a spring. Having helped 1,500 patients within a year of establishment, the spa is the forerunner of modern hydrotherapy applications. It is still used as a model for physicians to learn the approaches of hydrotherapy. In more recent times such as the late 1990s, critical care units are using hydrotherapy to treat conditions of the nervous system like the Guillain-Barré syndrome among other serious medical issues.

Administering the Therapy 

hydrotherapy equipment
India Medico Instruments

Hydrotherapy falls within the department of physiotherapy and should you choose to get the therapy, you’ll be placed under the care of a physiotherapist that specializes in the treatment. Your initial consultation takes around 30 to 45 minutes and during this time, the therapist will ask you questions regarding your medical history, overall health, and the results you hope to get from the sessions. If you’re taking treatment for any health condition, whether conventional or alternative, you must inform the therapist. Based on the evaluation, the therapist will advise you whether the treatment is good for you.

A typical hydrotherapy course includes about five to six sessions of 30 minutes each and is taken in a special water therapy pool that has about chest high water. The therapist may recommend that you do the particular exercises that can help the health issues you face. She may choose to adjust the modality depending on your symptoms, endurance, and ease of movement. You can rest assured that the therapy is not as strenuous as aquaerobics and includes relaxed controlled movements. Most patients find that the therapy is pleasant and relaxing. While it is normal to feel tired after a session, you are not likely to have an injury.

Two members of the healthcare department will be present on site to guide and supervise you, one of whom will stay in the water beside you. Most pools have a railing around them that you can hold onto along with support bars beside the steps so you can climb in and out of the pool with ease. You’ll also be given floats for added support.

Preparing for the Therapy

You’ll be asked to make certain preparations before you come in for your hydrotherapy session.

  • Have a light meal and make sure to drink water before and after the session.
  • Shower before and after your session.
  • Check for any open injuries, skin infections, or urinary infections.
  • Remove all footwear before entering the pool.
  • Carry all essential medication such as GTN spray, glucose supplements, and inhalers.
  • Carry your swimsuit, swimming cap, and towel.

Contraindications for Hydrotherapy

Your therapist might advise you not to take the hydropathy session under special circumstances such as:

  • High or low blood pressure
  • Incontinence or a kidney condition for which you need dialysis
  • Angina or heart problems
  • Chest infection
  • Fever or virus infection
  • Breathing problems or asthma
  • Allergy to chlorine
  • Open wound or skin infection
  • Upset stomach
  • Epilepsy
  • High sugar levels or uncontrolled diabetes

Benefits the Therapy Provides

Hydrotherapy can help you with a wide range of ailments such as:

  • HydrotherapyOrthopedic rehabilitation post surgery like if you’ve just had joint replacement surgery
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Head, neck, and spine issues and pain
  • Any form of arthritis such as psoriatic, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Recovering from sports injuries and any other kind of trauma
  • Recovery from stroke
  • Pre and post-natal exercising
  • Long-term chronic pain
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Acne
  • Colds
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress
  • Burns and frostbite
  • High fever

Side effects of the Therapy

Hydropathy is a very safe form of treatment and does not have any side effects. If you do have any adverse reactions they could happen because of an allergy you may have to the essential oils or herbs infused in the water. To prevent such side effects from happening, the therapist might choose to test the oil on the inside of your elbow before adding it to your hydrotherapy pool. If you know of any products that you’re allergic to, do remember to let the therapist know in advance. You might also feel the sensation of overheating, similar to when you soak for too long in a hot tub or jacuzzi. These minor discomforts can be overcome by discussing the issues with the physiotherapist. In rare cases, patients may feel faint, chilled, or nauseous. Some people also complain of headaches, disturbed sleep, and aches and pains.  

Hydrotherapy is a highly effective modality for treating various health issues. It is non-invasive and has been used by healthcare practitioners for centuries. It is safe to use and can provide you with help in easing the conditions that sometimes allopathic and conventional treatments cannot help you with.

 

References:

  1. “What is hydrotherapy?” Arthritis Research UK. n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
  2. “Hydrotherapy – Topic Overview.” WebMD. 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
  3. “Hydrotherapy” Indian Spinal Injuries Centre. n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
  4. “Hydrotherapy.” The Free Dictionary. n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.