The Real Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Water cure, or Hydrotherapy is a broad ranging treatment tool for a number of conditions and symptoms, that has been around since Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek civilizations.

But its longevity now has real and discernible benefits, increasingly acknowledged by the medical fraternity and practiced and recommended by non-conventional therapists for far longer.

The fathers of modern hydrotherapy, Vincent Peissnitz, and Sebastian Kneipp during the 1800’s are widely touted as the catalyst for its relevance today, but the results over time speak for themselves.

The benefits of both cold (Cryotherapy) water immersion and Hot Bath techniques are now much better understood with the emergence of efficient heating and cooling systems, water sanitization and access to hydrotherapy facilities as well as increasingly more competitive sports medicine requirements world-wide.

In modern times, the addition of massage with Hot Bath exposure has allowed therapists to combine two well-established techniques to treat a variety of conditions and relieve symptoms in others. And while the post-modern versions of these techniques were effective, modern spa and swim spa technologies have brought together these hot (and cold) water emersion techniques with water massage and allowed consumers to experience the benefits regularly in the comfort of their own homes, or within the managed treatment environment of their therapist.

The modern spa, combines hot water therapy with massage in a number of useful ways. Firstly, through a process known as the ‘thixotropic’, warm water emersion softens connective tissue. This also can reduce inhibition to tissue and allow stretching (and thus improved movement) to be more effective.

Secondly, while extremes in temperature can activate the neurological system, moderate heating may ease the neurological activations that cause stress, so temperatures up to just above body temperature (about 40 degrees, but no more) can be an excellent source of stress relief.

Thirdly, releasing muscle tightness can be improved with massage and heat (typically water jet in a modern spa, but also techniques such as tennis balls behind the neck or back), during warm water emersion. This can release ‘knots’ (myofascial trigger points) and provide accurate, and targeted relief where you need it most, all while your muscle tissue is best able to receive the therapy. Lower back pain, for instance, is almost always recommended to be treated with hot (rather than cold) compresses or water. Despite the patient often assuming a further inflammatory response would be unhelpful, lower back pain is often muscular (not mechanical) in nature, and assisted by warm hydrotherapy and made worse by ‘cold’.

Fourth, while exercise (and the body’s naturally occurring processes) is a good form of detoxification, sweating in water (requiring adequate rehydration), has known benefits in excretion of some toxins. This is perhaps less pronounced than many would have originally thought, but nonetheless important and should be considered as a potential benefit.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the physical and the psychological could be more closely linked than previous evidence might have suggested. Meditation, relaxation and a ‘sense of presence in the moment’ can be often achieved best in a warm, comfortable and secure environment. These techniques, combined with a secure environment such as a warm spa, can be of immense benefit to our mental health. The physiological benefits to a centred, calm and stable mind, on the body, may be more pronounced than we ever assumed.