Hydrotherapy, water therapy, and hydropathy are different terms that describe a highly effective method of healing that uses the versatility of water a medium. Therapists have used hydropathy for healing patients as far back as 4,500 B.C. and have been well aware of the many positives it has above other forms of treatment.
Positives of Water Healing or Hydrotherapy
Aside from being completely non-invasive, hydrotherapy uses water that has beneficial effects on the body. The different forms of water in its liquid, both hot and cold, solid, and gaseous states can treat various illnesses, many of which conventional medicine cannot help. Here’s what sets water therapy apart from other modalities.
- Water keeps the patient warm all through the session.
- Its buoyancy can support and heal even the most obese of patients.
- Therapists can make adaptations in the approaches they use to suit the particular requirements of the patient. They can progress from a non-weight bearing to full weight bearing systems.
- Immersion in water promotes better respiratory and cardiovascular functioning.
- Patients with disabilities can adopt motions like walking, sitting up straight, or bending.
- Water can treat symptoms of pain, weakened muscles, and restricted mobility.
- Water helps improve blood circulation and boosts metabolism.
- The therapist can supervise the movements of the entire body during the session and can thus, monitor the alignment of the muscles.
Specialized Forms of Hydrotherapy
Hydropathy can be used in different ways to heal the specific illnesses or symptoms the patient has.
By submerging the patient in tepid water, physicians can help bring down high fever. One of the oldest modalities of the therapy, baths with infusions essential oils and herbs are also used by therapists to treat various conditions. They may choose to infuse the water with whole flowers, herbs, and leaves packed in cheesecloth or a muslin bag or instead use their essential oil extractions by dropping carefully measured amounts in the bath water.
- Marjoram – Easing sore muscles
- Yarrow, Cypress, Myrtle, Geranium, Clary sage – Hemorrhoids
- Juniper – Detoxification to treat arthritis
- Juniper, Spike lavender – Rheumatism
- Lavender, Ylang-ylang, chamomile – Relieving stress
- Dead Sea salts, Epsom salts – Rheumatism and arthritis, helps soothe joints and relax the discomfort.
Inhaling steam along with aromatherapy and botanical infusions can help relieve respiratory issues. For steam inhalations, patients need not visit the steam room. They can use a bowl of steaming water and bend over it for three to five minutes with a towel draped over the head and shoulders for maximum effect. The aromatherapy essential oils can help clear nasal congestion. Typically, the oils used are:
- Lavender, Thyme: Cough
- Frankincense, Virginian cedarwood, Sandalwood: Sore throat
- Tea tree: Sinus infections and bronchitis
Also called sitz baths, hip baths immerse the patient from the waist downwards and are very effective in treating hemorrhoids. They can also be used to speed up healing from an episiotomy that is performed to assist mothers during labor.
Spas and Natural Springs
Many therapists, particularly in European countries suggest that patients take hydrotherapy at a natural spring. They believe that the mineral content in the water can have better therapeutic effects as compared to plain warm or tepid water. However, even if the mineral content is not present in the water, hydropathy can still have many beneficial effects.
Other Types of Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy or healing with water can be used in various other techniques:
- Warm showers: Not only can warm showers stimulate blood circulation, but the jets released from the shower head and panels of a shower stall can massage sore muscles. Doctors in burn units recommend the use of showers in place of immersing the patients.
- Hot tubs with whirlpool and jacuzzi features: Physical therapists use hot tubs to help patients with injuries ease the pain in their muscles and joints. The warm water also aids in the healing process by promoting muscle strength while the jet streams can work to massage sore limbs. Obstetricians and traditional midwives believe in immersing the mother in a hot tub during labor to alleviate some of the pain.
- Compresses: Warm compresses help to heal abscesses and relieve aching muscles while cold compresses can help lower the inflammation of the area in case of an injury. Tepid compresses can bring down fever or cure headaches.
- Hubbard tanks and pools: The buoyancy offered by the water can help patients with arthritis. It can also help injured patients get back their muscle strength by doing low-impact exercises when immersed in a pool.
- Steam rooms and saunas: Steam is known to assist the body in releasing toxins and opening the pores of the skin.
- Colonic irrigation and enemas: Used to cure digestive problems, enemas can clean up the entire bowel.
- Affusions: Streams of either hold or cold water are poured over the patient’s body depending on the type of ailment being treated.
- Contrast Baths: Effective in promoting blood circulation, faster healing and improving immunity, the patient is immersed in cold and warm baths, alternating between them quickly.
Research on the Effectiveness of the Therapy
The effectiveness of hydrotherapy in helping cure many ailments is being supported by Science also. Here are the results of some studies conducted on the therapy.
- Jenny Geytenbeek conducted a series of trials on a group of patients at the University of South Australia in 2000. She found moderate to high range evidence that hydropathy can help patients with chronic back pain, rheumatic problems, joint immobility, and low strength levels.
- The NCBI reports that when Halliwick-based hydrotherapy was used to treat children with Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), they showed improvement in social interactions and behaviors in the 10 to 14 weeks of sessions.
- Randomized clinical trials were conducted on a group of patients with fibromyalgia syndrome. Researchers used different types of hydrotherapy including thermal pool baths or spas, pool exercises to improve flexibility and stamina, and balneotherapy or sulfur pool baths. They found that hydropathy was very effective in reducing pain and improving the health of the patients.
Hydrotherapy has been used by humans since ancient times to speed up healing and bring relief from many medical issues. So effective is the therapy that conventional and alternative medicine healers are using hydrotherapy to complement the usual methods of healing they use. For instance, massage therapists may include contrast hydrotherapy in their sessions while obstetricians might use warm baths to help mothers deliver more easily. In the coming times, more and more patients and healthcare practitioners are likely to recognize the adopt this amazing healing modality.
- “Hydrotherapy Modalities for Registered Massage Therapists.” OVCMT College of Massage Therapy. n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
- “Hydrotherapy.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex. n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
- “Evidence for Effective Hydrotherapy.” Physiotherapy. n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
- “The effectiveness of hydrotherapy in the treatment of social and behavioral aspects of children with autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
- McVeigh, JG., McGaughey H., et al. “The effectiveness of hydrotherapy in the management of fibromyalgia syndrome: a systematic review.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.