What Is Hydrotherapy?

  • Anila Vijayan Bachelor of Homoeopathic Medicine & Surgery, India

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Introduction 

Water is an essential compound in our day-to-day life. We use it as drinking water,for  cooking food and for bathing. Water helps us to stay healthy and improve our quality of life. It is a tasteless, odourless liquid, which can dissolve many substances.1

Hydrotherapy is a treatment involving the use of water to promote the overall well-being of a person. It is also known as water therapy or aquatic therapy. Warm water treatment can be used to help relieve pain, relax, strengthen muscles, increase circulation and improve mobility. There are different types of hydrotherapy practised, where water is used at varying temperatures.2,3

Hydrotherapy is very useful for many conditions, especially arthritis.Hydrotherapy can take place anywhere from a spa, health centre, hospital or even at home with the help of a physiotherapist.2,3

Effects of hydrotherapy

  • Warm water allows muscles to relax and reduces muscle spasms and pain.  It also speeds up recovery. 
  • Buoyancy effect : It is the force experienced which acts in the opposite direction to the force of gravity. This helps the body to float which reduces the stress on the weight-bearing joints and helps the patient to move freely. 
  • Water provides resistance for the joints to move, this improves muscle strength. 

Types of hydrotherapy

  • Contrast hydrotherapy: This treatment involves exposure of the patient's body to contrast temperature i.e. using alternating hot and cold water. This treatment helps in reducing the inflammation and stimulates the circulation and lymphatic drainage.4 This helps in recovering from injury, burns more calories, treats certain skin conditions, and improves the immune system. 
  • Compresse or wraps: This therapy involves using towels and flannels either soaked in warm water or cold water. Warm water wrap increases good circulation which reduces muscle stiffness. Cold water wrap reduces inflammation and helps in treating certain skin disorders. 
  • Sauna and steam rooms: Both the rooms are filled with steam i.e. humid air. This helps in sweating which leads to excretion of toxins and impurities and also reduces the muscle pain, improves mental health and sleep.
  • Warm bath: It is the most widely used type of hydrotherapy at home, soaking in warm water in a bathtub for 30 minutes using remedies such as mineral mud, salt, aromatherapy oils, oats, and ginger which can support the skin and musculoskeletal system.
  • Sitz bath: This uses a shallow bath where according to the condition the healthcare professionals will recommend either use of cold or warm water. These are advised in case of haemorrhoids and cramps.
  • Immersion therapies: In this therapy, the person immerses themselves in either cold or warm water, this promotes muscle relaxation.

Conditions treated with hydrotherapy

Water helps in treating several conditions in different forms and at different temperatures, hydrotherapy reduces the symptoms of certain conditions and gives relief to people suffering.3 Some of the conditions are: 

  • Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis, which causes degenerative joints. This occurs when the cartilage (it is a strong, flexible connective tissue that protects the joints and bones from shock and helps in smooth joint movement) is worn down or damaged and makes the bones rub against each other during movements.5
  • Fibromyalgia: It is a chronic disease condition that causes musculoskeletal pain and fatigue..6
  • Parkinson’s disease: It is a brain degenerative condition affecting muscle control, balance and movement. As the condition progresses it can also affect the senses and mental health.
  • Neuropathy: It is a condition that affects the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. This causes muscle weakness and numbness.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis: It is a type of arthritis that affects the spine joints. It affects the base of the spine where it meets the pelvis (sacroiliac joint). It is the biggest joint in the body.7
  • Burns: Burns are tissue damage occurring from overexposure to sun, heat, radiation or any chemical or electrical contact. Treatment of burns depends on the location and severity of the burns.8 
  • Multiple sclerosis: It causes damage to nerve fibre in the central nervous system. This can lead to vision defects, muscle weakness, loss of balance and numbness.9
  • Cerebral palsy: It is a neurological condition that occurs due to the damage of the brain that controls muscle movement. It affects muscle tone, posture and causes movement disorders. This occurs during foetal development and the signs and symptoms appear during early childhood.10
  • Arthritis: It is a condition of swelling and tenderness of one or more joints, which leads to joint pain and stiffness. This condition worsens with age.11 
  • Depression: It is a mood disorder that causes persistent sadness or loss of interest. Depression causes severe problems which may lead to difficulty in day-to-day activity.
  • Stress: Stress is a state of mental tension.12
  • In labour: Immersion in warm water during any part of labour, either during the early stage of labour or during the active stage or late phase. Hydrotherapy gives comfort, relaxation and relief from pain.13

Benefits of hydrotherapy

  • Relieves pain and muscle spasm
  • Cold water reduces inflammation
  • Helps to remain relaxed
  • Helps to improve joint movement
  • Reduces anxiety and stress
  • This strengthens weak muscles and encourages walking and other functions and activities
  • Helps in improving patient confidence in doing exercise
  • Promotes balance and coordination
  • Cold water lowers the body temperature
  • Cold water improves the immune system
  • Warm water promotes blood flow
  • Warm water excretes the toxins out of the body
  • Relieves constipation

Risk of hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy helps in improving musculoskeletal conditions but in certain conditions it is suitable to proceed only with caution or should not be used.. For example: 

  • Risk of slips falls or accidents
  • Certain skin infections
  • People with cardiovascular disease
  • People after recent surgery
  • Illness like cold and fever
  • People suffering from uncontrolled epilepsy
  • Open wounds
  • People having contagious diseases
  • People suffering from urinary tract infection
  • People undergoing chemotherapy

FAQs

What do you do in hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is a method used to treat certain disease conditions with the help of water. It is also known as water therapy or aquatic therapy. 

What is hydrotherapy used for?

Hydrotherapy is a method using water to reduce pain and to improve movement, it helps in treating certain symptoms of some diseases. This may include exercise conducted by a physiotherapist in pools and tubs at a certain water temperature. 

Does hydrotherapy work?

Hydrotherapy helps in different ways, the warmth of water helps in muscle relaxation and reduces joint pain. The water supports the body weight and increases the movement of the joints.

How often should I continue hydrotherapy?

Maintaining a session per week for a month or doing more sessions according to the necessity. 

How to do hydrotherapy at home?

Hydrotherapy can be done at home by filling a bathtub with warm water, adding salts or essential oils, and resting inside for 30 minutes. This helps to improve relaxation and to attain a peaceful mind.

Summary

Hydrotherapy is a treatment involving the use of water to maintain the overall well-being of a person. It is also known as water therapy or aquatic therapy. It is a warm water treatment used to help relieve pain, relax, strengthen muscles, increase circulation and improve mobility. Different types of

hydrotherapy are practised, where water is used at varying temperatures. Hydrotherapy is very useful in many conditions, especially arthritis. Hydrotherapy can take place anywhere from a spa, health centre, hospital or even at home with the help of a physiotherapist.

References

  1. Steven S Zumdahl. Water. Encyclopedia Britannica [Internet]. 2024 Jan 15; Available from: https://www.britannica.com/science/water/Structures-of-ice
  2. Mooventhan A, Nivethitha L. Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. N Am J Med Sci. 2014 May;6(5):199-209. doi: 10.4103/1947-2714.132935. PMID: 24926444; PMCID: Available from: PMC4049052.
  3. Ranajit Sen Chowdhury, MD. Daharul Islam, Khaleda Akter, Mohammad Abdus Sattar Sarkar, Tanima Roy, Sm Tajdit Rahman. Therapeutic Aspects Of Hydrotherapy: A Review. Bangladesh Journal of Medicine (BJM) [Internet]. 2021 Jan 4; Available from: https://doi.org/10.3329/bjm.v32i2.53791
  4. Mikhael M, Khan YS. Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis: Lymphatic Drainage. [Updated 2023 Jul 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557720/
  5. Sen R, Hurley JA. Osteoarthritis. [Updated 2023 Feb 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482326/
  6. Bhargava J, Hurley JA. Fibromyalgia. [Updated 2023 Jun 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK540974/
  7. Wenker KJ, Quint JM. Ankylosing Spondylitis. [Updated 2023 Jun 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470173/
  8. Warby R, Maani CV. Burn Classification. [Updated 2023 Sep 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539773/
  9. Tafti D, Ehsan M, Xixis KL. Multiple Sclerosis. [Updated 2022 Sep 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499849/
  10. Bairaktaridou A, Lytras D, Kottaras A, Iakovidis P, Chatziprodromidou IP, Moutaftsis K. The effect of hydrotherapy on the functioning and quality of life of children and young adults with cerebral palsy. Int J Adv Res Med [Internet]. 2021 Jul 1 [cited 2024 Jan 27];3(2):21–4. Available from: https://www.medicinepaper.net/archives/2021.v3.i2.A.211
  11. Senthelal S, Li J, Ardeshirzadeh S, et al. Arthritis. [Updated 2023 Jun 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518992/
  12. Schneiderman N, Ironson G, Siegel SD. Stress and health: psychological, behavioural, and biological determinants. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2005;1:607-28. doi: 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141. PMID: 17716101; PMCID: Available from: PMC2568977.
  13. Gautham K, Devi S. A case series on maternal and neonatal outcomes of hydrotherapy during labour and childbirth. IJOGR [Internet]. 2020 Jun 28 [cited 2024 Jan 27];7(2):257–62. Available from: https://ijogr.org/article-details/11501

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Anila Viijayan

Bachelor of Homoeopathic Medicine & Surgery, India

A homoeopathic physician with a wealth of knowledge accumulated through rigorous education and extensive clinical experience. Beyond confines of clinic, have expertise in conducting seminars, writing insightful articles, and actively participating in medical communities. Additionally, possesses a comprehensive understanding of medical insurance processes and managing health clinic solely.

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