Hydrotherapy, or water therapy as it is also known centres around (as you've probably guessed) the use of water as a healing agent. The buoyancy, viscosity and mineral components of water are used through hydrotherapy to heal or relieve ills as varied as fatigue, sore throats, colds, inflammation of the joints, jaundice, rheumatism, arthritis, spondylitis, insomnia, soft tissue injuries and even diabetes.
As an alternative system of healing, hydrotherapy is one of the oldest, safest and cheapest- which is definitely part of the reason why it's swiftly gaining in popularity.
Hydrotherapy is no upstart; it's been around for more than 5,000 years, when the first mineral and thermal baths appeared in Greece.The Greeks, however, were not the only people to realize the healing powers of water. They were followed in their appreciation of the therapeutic liquid by the Romans (who are credited with having set up well-planned baths all across their empire); the Egyptians, the Japanese and the native Indian Americans. Most modern techniques borrow from both Eastern and Western forms of water therapy, and span a vast range of treatments. Basically, hydrotherapy is instrumental in stimulating blood circulation, increasing the production of stress hormones, improving the immune system and lessening pain sensitivity.
The most common curative methods used in hydrotherapy include:
Hydrotherapy Cold Baths: Cold baths are used mainly as a means of stimulating blood circulation, and are also used for reducing swelling.
Hydrotherapy Steam Baths: Hot steam helps encourage sweating, which in turn opens the skin's pores, leaving the individual feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It's not specifically healing, but it works wonders if you're feeling tired and drained, and can be an effective means of detoxification.
Hydrotherapy Neutral Baths: A neutral bath-as the name suggests- uses water that is neither hotter nor colder than the temperature of the human body (cold or hot water draws or transmits heat to or from the body, as the case may be). For a neutral bath, the individual is immersed in water that is maintained at a steady temperature of between 33.5C and 35.6, for about half an hour. This has a sedative, and even soporific, effect on the patient and is used to calm the nervous system.
Hydrotherapy Floatation: As relaxing and refreshing as a neutral bath, floatation involves lying face up in a dark, enclosed tank of warm, heavily salted water.
Hydrotherapy Hot and Cold Sprays: High-pressure spray jets of hot or cold water are used to heal or relieve a number of minor ailments, and mainly to stimulate organ function, the nervous system and the immune system.
Hydrotherapy Hot and Cold Compresses: Both hot as well as cold compresses actually start off as cold compresses- a cloth dipped in ice-cold water and left on the effected part of the body for a certain period of time. In the case of a cold compress, the pack is replaced by an equally cold pack once it begins to lose its chill. In the case of a hot compress, the pack is left on and allowed to heat up by the warmth of the body. Both types of compresses are used in various ways, especially to treat acute injuries.
Hydrotherapy Ice Packs: Ice packs- which contain crushed ice or a special gel- are applied to the body to reduce swelling, pain and inflammation.
Hydrotherapy Wet Sheet Packs: A wet sheet pack (also known as a body wrap) is, as the name suggests, a procedure in which the entire body is wrapped in a cold, wet sheet that is in turn covered with a woolen blanket. The sheet is left in place until it dries by the warmth of the body (usually about half an hour to relieve a fever; longer to relax and soothe the body; or up to 3 hours to induce sweating, which can be a good detoxification method for those with drinking or smoking problems).