Hot Water Hydrotherapy is the medicinal use of water for positive health benefits.
These health benefits come from the mechanical and thermal effects of water interacting with the body.
It includes the use of physical water properties, specifically temperature and pressure, to manipulate the body’s flow of blood, the endocrine system and associated neural systems in order to treat the symptoms of certain diseases.
The Physical Effects Of Hot Water Hydrotherapy On the Body
Hydrotherapy uses water to deliver temperature and pressure changes to the body. These changes are sensed by the body via nerve endings in the skin and muscle, and result in neural “reflex effects” that are controlled by the brain and spinal cord.
The most important of these reflex effects are vasodilatation and vasoconstriction, which are the terms used to describe the relaxation and tensing of the blood vessels in the body.
These physical changes in the blood vessels cause changes in the rate of blood flow and in the metabolic functions that are linked to the rate of blood flow.
Hot Water Hydrotherapy
In a reflexive response to external heat, your body initiates changes that help keep the body cool, including dilating blood vessels to increase the blood flow through them, diverting blood flow to the extremities and to the skin’s surface, opening the pores of the skin, activating sweat glands and relaxing muscles.
Over short durations, a hot bath will cause organs of the endocrine system to become less active, particularly the adrenal gland, and can decrease blood pressure. This results in a relaxed, less stressful state and helps calm the nervous system.
Inhaling the steam or vapor from hot water hydrotherapy can be beneficial effect for your lungs as well.
Moist, hot air causes the small airways and air sacs in the lungs to dilate and increases the lung’s ability to move phlegm and mucus out. It can also help people breathe in more easily, since the volume of space in the lungs slightly increases.
The Physical Nature of Hot Water in Hydrotherapy
In addition to temperature, the physical nature and pressure of water used in soaking, full body immersion or Hot Tub Hydrotherapy plays an important role in hot waters effect on the body.
Weightlessness – In water, you weigh 10% of your actual body weight, so your body is relieved of the normal pressures exerted by gravity. This “weightlessness” alleviates pressure on joints and muscles (muscles don’t have to work as hard to keep body in position) helping to ease pain.
Water pressure & Underwater Exercise– Because water is denser than air, water pushes on your body more than air, helping to support body joints and muscles and making it more difficult for fluids to accumulate under the skin or in extremities.
The pressure water exerts on your skin and muscles as you move your body through water can also help move blood through the veins and back towards the heart.
Water produces a soothing, massage-like sensation on the skin that results in specific responses from the brain that help calm and soothe the body.
That effect is further heightened by the addition of water jets or air bubbles to the water, which enhance the sensations on the skin and in the muscles.
Water Jets – A light massage from water jets activates nerves in the skin and muscles that increase blood circulation to the massage area resulting in better tissue oxygenation, toxin evacuation, and muscle relaxation.
Air Bubbles – The gentle, tingling sensation people experience on the skin from the presence of many tiny air bubbles in water causes certain neural reflexes to activate, resulting in beneficial chemical reactions that promote muscle relaxation and a mental state of contentment.
Health Benefits of Hot Water Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy regiments can be designed to treat any number of maladies by creating different combinations of water temperature, water pressure and delivery methods. The most common ailments Hydrotherapy is used to treat include arthritis pain, back pain, headaches and muscle pain.
These ailments respond well to changes in the body that are brought about by temperature and pressure differentials and by increased or decreased blood flow. Hydrotherapy is also useful for relieving the discomfort and pain caused by a variety of symptoms associated with different diseases and injuries.
Hot Water Hydrotherapy is the most popular home Hydrotherapy remedy, not only because it is the most comfortable and enjoyable form of Hydrotherapy, but also because it stimulates nerve reflexes that result in the calming of the lungs, heart, stomach and endocrine system.
It is often used to relax patients, promote blood flow, aid in the healing process, tone the body, stimulate the immune system and alleviate the pain or discomfort associated with deep muscle, joint or connective tissue ailments, injuries or abnormalities.
Increased blood flow has important positive effects on our bodies. More efficient oxygenation of tissues helps injuries heal faster and more efficient removal of toxins from tissue helps prevent injuries and increases tissue resiliency.
Hot Water Hydrotherapy is used to achieve a wide variety of positive health benefits including:
• Fights Infection & Injury – By increasing the rate of blood flow in the body, hot water Hydrotherapy increases circulation of the immune system’s white blood cells, enabling the immune system to work faster and more efficiently.
A hot soak increases the production of endorphins in the body as well. Endorphins are the body’s “pain killers” and are associated with feelings of elation or happiness. Endorphins also stimulate the immune system, alleviate pain, and help tissues heal faster.
• Helps Clear Respiratory Infections – The inhalation of steam, particularly those medicated with compounds like menthol, alleviates the constriction of swollen lung canals and air sacs, allowing fluids and mucus to move out of the lungs more readily, and oxygen into the lungs more efficiently.
When your body fights lung infections, they move the ‘remains’ of organisms it has killed (and your spent white blood cells) out of your body via mucus, so clearing mucus and fluid out of your lungs is important in helping your body clear an infection as quickly as possible.
• Reduces Pain & Inflammation from Arthritis and Rheumatisms – The increase in blood flow brought about by hot water helps muscles relax, which lessens stress and pressure on joints, thereby alleviating pain from arthritis and rheumatism.
Inflammation in surrounding muscles and connective tissue is caused by a combination of cellular reactions to injury and a buildup of fluids, and when blood flow is increased, the body is able to reabsorb fluids faster and heal injury faster, helping reduce inflammation over time.
• Helps Improve Sleep & Relieve Stress – The calming effects hot water has on the nervous and endocrine systems help put our bodies in a “lower gear”, thereby relaxing us mentally.
This state of heightened relaxation makes it easier for us to fall asleep and helps alleviate daily stress and anxiety.
• Prevents Headaches – When blood vessels dilate, the physical space our blood has to fill in our bodies increases, and therefore overall systemic blood pressure decreases. Headaches are often brought about by high pressure in the arteries of the skull, so lower blood pressure helps prevent this from happening.
In addition, stress is often a culprit of constricted blood flow to the brain, which can also lead to headaches. Since hot water Hydrotherapy treatments help alleviate stress, they can also limit the onset of stress-induced headaches as well.
• Helps Control Blood Sugar in Diabetics – Recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that people with Type 2 Diabetes had an easier time controlling their plasma sugar levels and weight when they soaked in hot water for 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
In some instances, people needed less insulin each day as well. The increased blood flow, which mimics exercise and decreases activity of the endocrine system while increasing blood circulation to and from tissues, plays a role in the body’s ability to maintain glucose levels. Hydrotherapy is especially helpful in alleviating painful symptoms in people who have a harder time exercising than those who do not.
• Reduces Symptoms in Patients with Nerve, Muscle or Connective Tissue Diseases – Because hot water Hydrotherapy has a calming effect on the nervous system and helps increase blood flow to soft tissue, it helps alleviate symptoms associated with neural and muscular diseases by decreasing demands on neurons, decreasing stress in the muscles, and increasing the flow of oxygen to soft tissues, which aids in healing.
• Relaxes Muscles, Heals Muscle Injuries & Relieves Muscle Disease Symptoms – Hot water Hydrotherapy is especially helpful in bringing increased blood flow to the soft tissues of the body, particularly the muscles. In cases where people suffer from muscle injury or disease, hot water Hydrotherapy can provide great relief from many muscle discomforts including cramps, swelling, pain and spasms.
• Treats Circulatory Problems – When blood vessels dilate, as they do during hot water Hydrotherapy treatment, circulation and blood flow is increased, particularly to soft tissue like muscles. This is especially helpful in people who suffer from circulation problems, especially to the limbs and extremities.
People who suffer from cold hands and feet will find that many times hot Hydrotherapy doesn’t only provide an immediate relief, but that it continues to help even hours after the initial soaking period.
Hot Water Hydrotherapy Precautions
While Hydrotherapy has many potentially beneficial health effects, too much heat can affect health adversely.
In addition, people with certain types of diseases and health problems should avoid Hydrotherapy or only use Hydrotherapy under the direct supervision of a physician.
In all cases, it is important to discuss your Hydrotherapy plans with your doctor before starting Hydrotherapy and follow his or her advice and direction.
Once you have embarked upon your Hot Water Hydrotherapy regiment, be sure to monitor your progress and report any issues or side effects that arise to your doctor so they can make adjustments as needed.