Being an athlete myself, and knowing many more, I know firsthand how hard sports can be on one’s body. All of the pounding on the joints and the strain on the muscles can eventually end careers if one does not take care of their body. Today, there are many different forms of therapy that help the body recover from strenuous exercise. One form of therapy that is easily accessible to most is hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is thought to have originated in ancient Asian and ancient Roman cultures. Hydrotherapy is the use of water at different temperatures to decrease soreness and aching in the body. A common form of hydrotherapy is an ice-moist heat rotation on the target area. I myself have used this method before, and the ice part reduces blood flow to the target area, reducing swelling and inflammation, then the moist heat returns the blood flow, relaxing the muscle and therefore eliminating the soreness and pain. Hydrotherapy’s wide range of use is what makes it so effective, and is why it has been around since the ancient times.
But there are more uses for hydrotherapy, and there are also many more methods. Hydrotherapy can be used to treat muscle soreness, colds, increase circulation, reduce muscle spasm, and treat specific diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These benefits can be achieved in one of the many forms of hydrotherapy, such as watsu, sitz baths, warm water baths, steam baths, saunas, compresses, wraps and many more. On the biological level, hydrotherapy induces a physiological response from the body, be it a neuromuscular response, changes in blood flow, sweating or another response. In the case of using a sauna, the sweating that is induced helps detoxify the body by excreting waste products. Steam baths have a similar result, but also help clear the sinuses due to the steam that is inhaled. Ice-heat rotations restrict and dilate blood vessels, controlling blood flow and eliminating pain. In class, we have previously learned about all of the different unique properties of water, like the high specific heat it possesses. This helps the water you use for your therapy to remain either warm or cold for a long enough period of time for the therapy to actually work instead of conforming to the surrounding temperature. But the amazing thing about hydrotherapy is it many uses. Unlike other forms or therapy such as cryotherapy, hydrotherapy is flexible with the patient and is very easily accessible. Additionally, most forms are safe and can be performed at home if the right materials are present.
Hydrotherapy is one of the most common forms of therapy, and most people do not realize that they are practicing hydrotherapy on a daily basis. A warm shower or bath after a long day is an example of hydrotherapy. Although it is widely available and usually easy to perform, some forms of hydrotherapy require a professional and/or a spa. Most spas have multiple hydrotherapy options and masseuses or other professionals to help perform whatever method of therapy the patient desires. So the next time you are feeling sore or under the weather, consider taking a hot bath or going to a spa near you to receive some good ol’ hydrotherapy.