Hydrotherapy is a general term for a group of alternative treatments that usewater for the relief of various diseases or injuries, or for cleansing the digestive tract. The use of hydrotherapy has a long history as a form of medical treatment. For example, in classical times the Romans and Greeks found sources of water that were considered to have healing properties.
Hydrotherapy is used to treat a wide range of conditions, often in conjunction with conventional medical treatment.
Some forms of hydrotherapy are not suitable for certain patients. Cold bathsshould not be given to young children or the elderly. Sauna baths should be avoided by people with heart conditions.
External hydrotherapy involves the immersion of the body in water or the application of water or ice to the body, while temperature-based treatments involve the different effects of hot or cold water on the skin and underlying tissues. Hot water (around 100°F/37.8°C) relaxes muscles and causes sweating. It is used to treat arthritis, rheumatism, poor circulation, and sore muscles. Hot water hydrotherapy can be used in combination with aromatherapy by adding scented oils to the water. Cold water (60°F/15.6°C) treatments are used to stimulate blood flow in the skin and underlying muscles.
Temperature-based treatments include the application of moist heat or cold tospecific parts of the body. The application of moist heat is called fomentation, and is used for chest colds, influenza, or arthritis. Cold compresses orice packs are used in the treatment of sprains, headaches, or dental surgery. Body packs, which consist of wet cloth wrapped around the patient, are sometimes used to calm psychiatric patients and for detoxification.
A sitz bath is a form of treatment in which the patient sits in a specially constructed tub that allows the lower abdomen to be submerged in water of a different temperature from the water around the feet. Sitz baths are recommended for hemorrhoids, prostate swelling, menstrual cramps, and other genitourinary disorders.
Motion-based hydrotherapy uses water under pressure in the form of jets, whirlpools, or aerated bubbles to massage the body. It is used to treat joint andmuscle injuries as well as stress and anxiety.
Internal hydrotherapy includes colonic irrigations and enemas. Steam baths orinhalation of steam to relieve respiratory congestion is also a form of internal hydrotherapy, as is drinking mineral water to restore the body's electrolyte balance or cleanse the system.
Normal results for hydrotherapy are symptomatic relief of the condition for which it was recommended. Additionally, hydrotherapy can strengthen both the individually focused area and the entire body.