Hydrotherapy, earlier called the hydropathy is defined as the use of water to treat a medical condition or to maintain the general health. The therapy belongs to conventional medicine as well as alternative medicine. It is said to be used in naturopathy, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy. The treatment involves the therapeutic use of water to provide healing effects.
Many prefer hydrotherapy or Aqua therapy as it is a natural way of treatment and the results are approving. Water has many properties that aid in providing relief. It improves blood flow and has a soothing, calming, and relaxing effect on the patient. Certain postures when done in water are easier to do and provide immense relief to painful joints. The increase in buoyancy allows for more degrees of activity and hence exercises done in water are more effective than when done on land. Different temperature conditions inside the water also play a role in this therapy. The increase in temperature and hydrostatic pressure increases blood circulation and the body’s flexibility and decreases swelling.
Hydrotherapy differs from swimming because this constitutes specific postures and exercises and is commonly administered in a hot water pool. The water temperature of such a pool is usually maintained between 33-36 º C. which is warmer than a typical swimming pool.
Types of hydrotherapy include:
In this system both hot and cold water is used. This involves methods like snow walking, dew walking, and water-treading. The Kneipp system helps in building the immune system of the body also increases the physiological response in the individuals.
There is a use of both hot and cold water simultaneously and people are given adjacent bath one with cold and one with warm water. This bath helps in relaxing the body by sitting alternative in both the baths.
This helps in healing the conditions like arthritis, skin allergies and fibromyalgia. This bath is given using both hot and cold water but particularly hot water springs and natural spas are used. The bath includes minerals like sulfur, silica, radium thus benefiting the treatment.
In this hot water is used for the therapy so as to inculcate thermal and mechanical massage. This therapy is very useful and boosts the blood circulation on the body, helps in relieving the pain and tension of the joints and knots.
In theses techniques hot or warm water is used for the healing treatment. Steam treatment is done by boiling the water beyond the boiling point which then vaporizes to form steam and detoxifies the body. Sauna treatment is done with dry heat and it detoxifies the body and also relieves the pain. Compress treatment is done with the towels in which the towels are dipped in very hot or very cold water and then placed on the painful body part to bring relief.
Hydrotherapy primarily includes anything from floating in the water and directly benefiting from the increased temperature and relaxation properties to highly intense exercise sessions. The form of hydrotherapy used will depend entirely on the conditions of the individual undergoing treatment. Many land-based exercises can be therapeutically used in the water. Walking in a pool is easy on the joints due to the buoyancy. Some state-of-the-art facilities may even have underwater treadmills! Other exercises such as squats and lunges can also be done inside the pool.
One method of hydrotherapy is also known as the Bad Ragaz Ring Method. It is a form of muscle re-education where the patient is kept afloat, and specific patterns of resistance, endurance, elongation, relaxation, a range of motion, and tonal reduction techniques are applied. As mentioned earlier all the exercises are progressed by increasing the speed of the movement or the turbulence of the water. Other methods of increasing difficulty include increasing surface area. This can be achieved for example by holding something wide in hand when moving it through the water.
The buoyancy of the water acts as either a tool to assist movement or to increase the difficulty of an exercise. For example, when using the shoulder, the water can be used to help in lifting the arm upwards from by the side. Also, the water will provide some resistance against pushing the arm back down. This resistance can be increased further by attaching a float to the arm.
Hydrotherapy is used in many illnesses and medical conditions. It is effective in most cases of arthritis and rheumatic illness. It is also advised to asthma patients and a range of problems such as cold, depression, stomach problems, nerve problems, headaches, and sleep disorders. It is also used by many to maintain overall health.
The treatment is most effective for Stage-1 patients. In the case of higher severity of illness, it is used along with other treatments. Statistics says that hydrotherapy has a very high success rate when it is used for a prolonged time. It shows satisfying results in most cases. However, the severity assessment is the primary criteria for the effectiveness of the treatment.
Hydrotherapy is advisable to everyone, however, under certain circumstances, hydrotherapy is not recommended.The therapy is not recommended for persons with:
Hydrotherapy is safe if it is administered correctly. Several people may react differently to the extent and magnitude of treatment. Some people may have headaches, aches and pains, sleep problems, nausea, chilliness, and faintness. It is important to discuss the physical condition and medical history with the doctor or physical therapist before trying hydrotherapy.
Always tell the doctor if an alternative therapy is already on. It is not safe to forgo conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative treatment. Invasive hydrotherapy techniques like enemas, douching, and colonic irrigation is not well accepted by medicinal science because these internal cleansing methods can cause damage to an individual by interfering with the natural balance of the digestive tract.
Hydrotherapy often puts on a risk of allergic reaction known as "contact dermatitis" for some patients using essential herbs and oils in their bath water. Overheating is one of the most common side effects of hydrotherapy, which can be very harmful. This may occur when an individual spends too much time in a hot tub or pool.
There is no specific post-treatment instruction after undergoing hydrotherapy. Though it should be kept in mind to maintain the patient at ease for a few hours after the treatment. Laborious works should not be undertaken. It should also be borne in mind that the patient is kept warm after the treatment or else there arise chances of catching a cold.
There is no fixed recovery time for this treatment. The individual can walk out if he or she feels comfortable in doing so. Though it depends on the practitioner, who accesses the conditions of a severity of the ailments and decides the recovery time.
These are the benefits of hydrotherapy:
Hydrotherapy helps in the increases in the flow of blood in the body and there is also increased circulation of white blood cells around the body which helps the lymph to move around the body efficiently thus making the immune system strong. It also helps in fighting sickness and cold.
Warm or hot water helps to raise the temperature of the body which increases the flow of blood around the circulatory system thus helps in elevating any kind of pain present in the damaged muscles or joints.
Hydrotherapy is very helpful in relieving muscle pain and tension. Because with the help of hydrotherapy there is a release of endorphins which are the natural pain reliever of the body. They also reduce the soreness in the muscles.
Hydrotherapy is very helpful in relieving the stress of the body by reducing the stress-causing blood pressure. Anxiety is also released by hydrotherapy and the release of endorphins which is a natural stress buster helps the body to relax.
Hydrotherapy detoxifies the body as the sauna and steam induce the sweat from the body thus flushing out all the impurities.
The cost of one session Hydrotherapy depends on the severity of the ailment of the patient. The average price of the treatment in India ranges between INR 1000 to INR 10000depending on the case and the organization performing the therapy.
The results of hydrotherapy are not permanent as it gives temporary relief from the ailment by increasing the flow of blood. Though prolonged used of hydrotherapy have shown instances of permanent cure in arthritis and asthma.
These are the precautions which should be taken before hydrotherapy.
These are the contraindications of hydrotherapy:
Some common alternatives of hydrotherapy are:
Relative Risk: High
Side Effects: Medium
Recovery Time: Medium
Price Range: RS. 1000 - Rs. 10,000