The Health Benefits Of Hydrotherapy

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I was recently commissioned by Bathing Solutions to give my thoughts on the following topic…

Humans have been using hydrotherapy, or water therapy, to treat illness and injury for thousands of years. In fact, Hippocrates wrote about using hydrotherapy in 400 B.C., and historians have documented the presence of ancient baths as early as 4500 B.C.

Now, thanks to numerous scientific studies, hydrotherapy has moved from a remedy your neighbor might suggest over the backyard fence to medically sound. Doctor- recommended treatments for illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, back pain and insomnia. And it has become a popular remedy for people who have had hip and knee replacements or those who have physical disabilities.

HYDROTHERAPY, DEFINED

Hydrotherapy is the use of water to ease discomfort, encourage healing and support overall good health. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, hydrotherapy boosts circulation, including circulation of white blood cells, nutrients and oxygen, which are key to proper immune system functioning and the restoration of injured tissue.

Hydrotherapy can take the form of such treatment types as soaking with walk-in baths or immersion in whirlpool or Jacuzzi tubs.

HOW HYDROTHERAPY WORKS

Water therapy works by taking advantage of your body’s natural reaction to warm water and water pressure. Both of which stimulate blood flow and help carry waste away from cells. In more technical terms, the health benefits of hydrotherapy are based on massaging, thermal and mechanical effects.

Massaging effects occur when air is forced into water, creating fast-moving air bubbles. The skin’s chemical reaction to the sensation is much the same as a person’s reaction to a gentle massage. The body’s contact receptors produce an additional rush of circulation, further stimulating relaxation and even tissue regeneration.

Thermal effects are generated when the body comes into contact with water at temperatures above body temperature. The warm water:

  • Expands blood vessels and arteries, allowing for increased blood and lymph circulation.
  • Increases the body’s production of endorphins, which can alleviate pain and elevate mood.

Mechanical effects are the result of the weight-lessness of your body in water. Immersion in water eliminates 90 percent of the physical stress produced from body weight. This can lessen joint, muscle and bone pain almost instantly.

IMPROVEMENT FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES

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A landmark study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that people with type 2 diabetes could see substantial benefit from using hydrotherapy 30 minutes daily.

The study showed an average 13 percent reduction in blood sugar levels. Which physicians attribute to hydrotherapy’s heat-conditioning benefit of increased blood flow to skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles account for 80 percent of the body’s insulin-mediated glucose uptake.

RELIEF FOR ARTHRITIS PAIN

Hydrotherapy has been clinically proven to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and other chronic joint conditions. In fact, nearly 15 years ago, the Arthritis Care & Research Journal published a study that compared hydrotherapy and traditional exercise for arthritic patients. Hydrotherapy offered the greatest results.

Of course, the Arthritis Foundation has been recommending hydrotherapy as a remedy for years. Water therapy’s combination of heat and buoyancy relaxes muscles, heals swollen tissues, reduces body- weight stress on joints and, overall, helps the body to not work as hard. Many patients with arthritis also report an increased range of motion and reduced inflammation when using hydrotherapy.

THERAPY FOR PHYSICAL DISABILITIES

For individuals with physical disabilities, hydrotherapy can offer important benefits, too, including tension and energy release, increased trunk control and flexibility, weight support and sensory stimulation, according to several scientific journals. For patients with cerebral palsy, in particular, studies have shown that hydrotherapy can offer improved circulation and relief from muscle stiffness.

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AID FOR HIP/KNEE REPLACEMENTS RECOVERY

Research studies have proven that the use of hydrotherapy after a patient undergoes a hip or knee replacement can be an important step toward recovery. One study found that patients who used hydrotherapy had significantly lower pain and stiffness and more function in the affected joint and surrounding muscles, than those who did not use water therapy. The results stem from hydrotherapy’s ability to reduce swelling and speed healing.

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TREATMENT FOR BACK PAIN

Back pain is often the result of stiff muscles. But it can also be associated with injury to the nerves, ligaments, connective tissue and vertebrae in the back. The good news is that in most cases, hydrotherapy has been proven to help alleviate back pain and accelerate healing- with the thermal, massaging and mechanical effects of water therapy working together for outstanding results.

HELP FOR INSOMNIA

Some of the most common factors that trigger insomnia, such as stress, body aches and fatigue, can all be treated with hydrotherapy. In fact, research has shown that warm water therapy can improve not only your ability to fall asleep but also the quality of sleep after dozing off.

Many doctors, and the National Sleep Foundation, recommend that patients with insomnia soak in 103- degree-Fahrenheit water for 15 minutes about two hours before bedtime. By expanding blood vessels, the heated water actually lowers blood pressure, an essential element for deep sleep. In addition, relaxed muscles release tension and ease the transition to sleep.

BENEFITS FOR SENIORS

Hydrotherapy can help people of all ages. But studies show that seniors, in particular, can benefit from it. That is encouraging news for older adults. Since the use of water therapy can be as simple as turning on a bath faucet.

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In addition to all of the medical benefits already mentioned, hydrotherapy helps to keep the immune system in tip-top shape, ease digestion issues, maintain muscle strength, increase energy and enhance the vital absorption of nutrients, all especially important for seniors. Additionally, hydrotherapy’s endorphin effect can relieve anxiety and keep depression at bay, two common problems as we age. A Mayo Clinic study even found that hydrotherapy can serve as a substitute for cardiovascular exercise.

Plus, whether you are 20 or 80, relax muscles, courtesy of hydrotherapy, can make it easier to maintain a traditional exercise routine – not to mention meet the demands of our everyday life.

Important Note: As with any type of medical treatment, it is important to consult with your physician before using hydrotherapy to treat any illness or injury.