What is hydrotherapy for body and mind?
What is hydrotherapy? The healing technique of hydrotherapy has been around for centuries. Today is is used for everything from arthritis to stress reduction.
The benefits of hydrotherapy are a result of the principles of buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure and water temperature.
The principle of buoyancy of water comes into play when treating muscualar or joint injuries. Being in water reduces body weight by up to 90%. Physically this relieves the pressure of weight on our joints and muscles, and, the feeling of weightlessness proves to be very relaxing mentally as well as physically The weightless effect of water is also recommended for arthritis sufferers, as it eases joint stiffness and improves the mobility of the joints.
Hydrostatic pressure offers a form of massage that is soothing as well as healing. Studies at trauma and burn centers have shown that the massaging currents of water gently soothe touchy nerve endings while cleansing the wounds. This massaging action, combined with weightlessness, relaxes tight muscles. It also releases natural pain killers, called endorphins, into our system.
Hydrotherapy is most easily defined as the therapeutic use of water. It has been around for centuries and is probably the oldest of all therapies. It was once thought to treat everything from typhoid to tumors, and even general well-being in Roman and Turkish bathe. Today it is relied on as an aid in treating muscular and joint injuries, arthritis, and it is still treating general well-being in modern saunas and private bathtubs.
It is important to note that a person doesn't necessarily need to be in a whirlpool to enjoy the benefits of hydrotherapy. A large bathtub at home will do fine, as long as one can relax, stretch out and be mostly submerged, depending on the effect you are looking for.
Water temperature has a great deal to do with hydrotherapy. Hot water raises your body temperature and causes your blood vessels to dilate. This increases circulation and greater circulation can speed up the body's healing processes. Some people believe that a hot soak (103 degrees) can help you fight a cold or flu. This high temperature increases the number of white blood cells, which help to fight infection.
As great as a hot soak sounds, there are words of caution to remember. Doctors recommend a temperature limit of 104 degrees and a time limit of 15 minutes. Do not take a hot soak after a workout. Hot soaks are not recommended for people who are being treated for circulation problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or pregnancy. (If you suspect you have any of these conditions, see a doctor first).
If you do take a hot bath, always cool down afterwards. One recommended way is to splash your body with lukewarm water. Remember, hot water causes blood vessels to dilate and cold water causes them to constrict, so cool down slowly so you don't create a strain on your heart.
If you are not being treated for any of the conditions above, the alternating of hot and cold temperatures can be very therapeutic. In fact, it is one of the most common ways hydrotherapy is used. (Again, check with your doctor before engaging in such activity).
As mentioned above, using hot and then cold temperatures makes the blood vessels open up, contract, and then open up again. This causes a pumping action in your heart and blood vessels that greatly increases circulation, which, again, aids in healing. This is often a home remedy that is recommended for people with migraines. They take a hot shower, followed immediately by a cool one which suddenly shrinks the swollen blood vessels in the head which are causing the migraine.
Some other hydrotherapy home remedies are a warm bath for hemorrhoids; hot foot soak for sinus relief; a 20 minute dip in cold water for joint of hands or feet to reduce swelling; a lukewarm body soak to relieve tension and stress; a half hour soak in a warm bath immediately before bed for a deep sleep.
And although we've mainly discussed the reactions of our bodies to the touch and temperature of water, let's not forget about the sound. The sound of water splashing, the roar of the ocean, raindrops on the window pane are all welcome sounds that soothe tension and promote mental relaxation. Many mothers find that crying babies are soothed when they turn on the water faucet and cradle the baby nearby where they can hear it. On another note, babies also respond well to a warm bath when they are cranky.
The benefits of hydrotherapy are numerous and not all are covered here. You may even find that water treats specific ailments for you that are not mentioned. Using some of the home remedy tips listed above, and responsible use of the knowledge of the benefits OR ill effects of water temperatures on the body, we can enjoy the therapeutic effects of nature's most abundant resource.