Guide to Hydrotherapy Table of Contents
Guide to Hydrotherapy is a series consisting of 2 parts.
- A Guide to Hydrotherapy: Pt. 1, Contrast Hydrotherapy
- Guide to Hydrotherapy: Pt 2, Wet Sock Treatment
Hydrotherapy is an ancient form of therapy that uses water in various ways to facilitate a healing response. Hydrotherapy can be effective for anything from pain-relief as well as treating more serious illnesses and/or diseases. Hydrotherapy may encompass a range of various approaches. However, each application uses the basis of water’s physical properties. These include temperature, pressure and or delivery of specific medications (ie. minerals) to the target tissues.
Externally applied hydrotherapy can be separated into three categories: the use of hot water, cold water, and contrast (hot/cold). Heat relaxes while cold stimulates. The hot water produces a response that stimulates the immune system and causes white cells to migrate out of the blood vessels and into the tissues. Here, they can clean up toxins and assist the body in eliminating wastes. Therapeutically, hot water soothes and relaxes the body, and through the reflex action of the nerves, it can affect nearly every organ and system of the body.
Cold water discourages inflammation by means of vasoconstriction (constricting blood vessels), and by reducing the inflammation by making the blood vessels less permeable. Contrast hydrotherapy alternates between hot and cold water in the same treatment. This can stimulate the adrenal and endocrine glands, reduce congestion, alleviate inflammation, and activate organ function.
In a nutshell, hydrotherapy fundamentally works by stimulating both blood and lymphatic circulation. In this first part, we’ll discuss one of my favorite applications of hydrotherapy – contrast hydrotherapy.
Contrast Hydrotherapy (shower)
Many patients come into my office with various symptoms that are related to many disease conditions. Hypertonic (tight muscles) of the low back and/or shoulder are by far the most common musculoskeletal complaint. The simplest way to apply hydrotherapy in our day to day life is to utilize the time and energy that we already use to stay clean. In other words, use your shower and/or bath tub.
After you are finished with the hygienic aspect of the shower, finish off as follows.
- Turn the shower to as hot as you can handle it. Let this water run over the affected region (area of discomfort) for 3 minutes.
- Then, immediately turn the water to as cold as you can handle and let the water stimulate the same region for 30 seconds.
- Alternate hot (3 min.) and cold (30 sec.) as above, three times and end on cold.
This is a wonderful way to start your day and it only adds on a little extra time to your daily routine. The same application can be done by directing a shower sprayer on specific areas (ie. legs, knees, etc.). Or, you can apply the same principles by applying hot and cold compresses in the manner above (3min. hot/30 sec. cold/alternate hot and cold-end on cold. Contrast compresses are excellent for more acute pain and more localized treatment.