Today, hydrotherapy is often touted as something new. However, hydrotherapy is a well-established complementary practice. It was the Ancient Greeks that were the first to try using water as a therapy. They believed water contained what they called ‘’ the essence of life.”
Of course, we now know that water is rich in minerals that support our well-being. Cold and hot therapies also have a role to play when it comes to finding remedies that help us to control pain and inflammation.
“Taking the waters” was an established part of mainstream and conventional medicine until the 20th century. The practice is returning and is quickly becoming popular in many countries around the world.
This is backed up by the popularity of free swimming or open water swimming. It is believed hydrotherapy can help to reduce the risk of some forms of dementia. The latest research shows levels of shock proteins in our brains increase when we immerse ourselves in cold water. More research is needed, but there is a clear indication that shock proteins may have health benefits.
Cold and hot water therapy has clear benefits when it comes to reducing inflammation in the body. When we lower our inflammatory response, we experience less pain.
There is little wonder that hydrotherapy is seeing a resurgence.
History of Hydrotherapy
When we look at the history of medicine, it is easy to see that hydrotherapy and water have been valued for a long time. Hydrotherapy has been used to revitalise, cleanse, restore and maintain our health. We all know that going for a swim or any water therapy makes us feel better.
The Ancient Romans took water therapy to another level. Wherever they set up camp, they often built extensive bath complexes. One of the main sites paying homage to hydrotherapy is the City of Bath in the UK.
Other sites such as Baden-Baden in Germany and Spa in Belgium also indicate that hydrotherapy has a role to play.
Father Sebastian Kneipp is the founder of modern hydrotherapy, He was a Bavarian 19th-century monk who claimed that water could help to remove toxins from the body. Today, we know that oxidants play a huge role when it comes to disease. We can fight them off with anti-oxidants, but there is every possibility other therapies also play a role.
Father Kneipp recommended a system of hot and cold water treatments, compresses, foot baths, showers, steam baths and even wraps. What he started is still in practice and is followed in naturopathy medicine.
Key Principles of Hydrotherapy
What do we know about hydrotherapy? Looking closer at hydrotherapy, we have learned that water can manipulate the body’s blood flow. This does not only happen when we drink water. Using water externally also has many benefits.
Cold water treatments restrict the blood flow to the surface of the blood vessels. This can inhibit the reactions to biochemical compounds or mechanisms that lead to inflammation.
Research tells us that cold and hot hydrotherapy sends the blood back to our internal organs increasing their efficiency.
Hot water therapy is relaxing and opens up the arteries. In doing so, it aids to reduce blood pressure. All forms of better circulation help to boost the immune system. This in turn removes toxins from the body which the body replaces with the most powerful anti-oxidant in the world – oxygen.
Alternative hot and cold hydrotherapy may stimulate the endocrine (hormonal) system. A useful technique if you are experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Evidence and Research
There are many studies into hydrotherapy. One of the best studies which took place in 1995 in Europe found hydrotherapy enhanced athletic performance.
Studies from Israel indicate that mineral baths benefit individuals experiencing rheumatoid arthritis. Sitz baths have long been used to remedy anal fissures.
Many who use saunas along with dips in cold water have healthier circulatory systems than those who don’t.
The Theory Of Hydrotherapy
When it comes to the theory of hydrotherapy, there are many factors to take into account.
As mentioned we know that cold water restricts the flow of certain compounds. More research is needed. But, if these toxins are eliminated by the body, then forced out, there is every possibility this method works.
Also, don’t forget that our skin contains pores. Toxins can be eliminated through the skin and healthy compounds can be introduced into the bloodstream.
What Are the Main Uses of Hydrotherapy?
If you are thinking about trying hydrotherapy, it is important to consult a practitioner. There are many ways in which you can use this wide-ranging complementary therapy.
At home, you can try cold and hot compresses. In a more clinical environment, you have access to more therapies including Turkish baths, steam rooms, wraps, sea-water treatment and Turkish baths.
Main uses of hydrotherapy:
● Muscle pains
● Joint pains
● Circulatory health problems
● Varicose veins
Final Thoughts and Medical Opinion
Hydrotherapy is not only an excellent self-help remedy. The beneficial effects of hot and cold water are clear.
Increasingly, modem Western medicine is beginning to express an interest in the health benefits of hydrotherapy. It is an excellent example of a health regime which is not far removed from conventional medicine.
The benefits of hydrotherapy are fully recognised by veterinary medicine. Both large and small pets can undergo hydrotherapy and specialist centres are springing up.