The Application of Water: Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy is a popular form of treatment. Therapeutic baths are found in salons and spas, and water treatment is used in physical therapy. Immersion in water of the whole body or part of the body provides a valuable healing modality as the water conducts the temperature effectively into the body. You use water therapy yourself anytime you take a soothing, scented bath or a long, warm shower to help release your tension, relax your muscles, and wash away what ails you. Today's spas provide many forms of water therapy and massage to provide relaxation to the entire body and mind.
The Therapeutic Effects of Water
Immersion in hot water raises the temperature of your body and improves your circulation. Because your body is buoyant in water you feel less pressure on your joints and muscles, which helps release pain and tension. Most hydrotherapy tubs have a whirlpool or jet spray component that sends out a stream of water to surround and massage your body. Water massage also stimulates the production of feel-good neurotransmitters (endorphins), allowing for total relaxation.
Endorphins are the body's natural painkillers. They are chemical messengers in the brain that have druglike, pain-suppressant qualities. One way these chemicals are accessed is through stimulation of the skin, which is why massage can help relieve pain.
Therapeutic baths can help provide relief from chronic conditions such as insomnia or nervous tension. In addition, the water encourages the release of toxins as well as additional benefits to the circulatory and elimination systems.
Cleansing baths using friction help rid the skin of dead cells. Washing the skin with a brush or mitt, such as a natural loofah sponge, encourages the dead surface cells to loosen and leave the body. The friction application promotes the growth of new skin and provides a vigorous stimulating effect on the skin. By using aromatherapy soap along with friction, you add the soothing benefit of the herb or oil used in the preparation of the soap.
The Effects of Cool Water
Cool baths reduce pain and swelling because the coolness desensitizes the nerves and causes surface blood vessels to contract, pulling the blood away from the swollen area. The body responds quickly to the effects of cold water, so cool baths are generally short in duration. However, the benefits of cool water bathing continue after the bath, providing warmth and increased function as the blood vessels expand again, causing improved circulation. Overused and taut muscles respond to the use of cold water therapy.
Cold application in the form of cold wet towels or covered ice packs helps muscle spasms and muscle fatigue. Initially the application of cold reduces the sensitivity of the nerve response, acting like a form of anesthesia. With the removal of the cold water the nerve sensitivity returns to normal, helping restore homeostasis in the body function. Cold application helps muscle spasms and muscle fatigue. Overused and taut muscles respond to the use of cold water therapy.
Whirlpool or Friction Baths
Two other kinds of baths found in spa treatment are the whirlpool bath and the friction bath. Whirlpools are found everywhere—even your local hotel may have a mini-whirlpool next to the regular heated pool. The whirling of the water helps your circulation as well as aching muscles. The gentle agitating pulse of the water on your body is soothing to your nervous system.
Some spas offer what is known as a friction bath. This is a bath given by hand by an attendant. The attendant applies cold water with a wet towel or loofah mitt and briskly rubs part of the body, say the arm, with the water-soaked mitt; then, using friction again, dries the arm with a towel before moving on to the next part. This is a stimulating and energizing bath that you can even do on yourself.