Hydrotherapy is the use of water for healing, in the form of liquid, ice, water vapor, or steam. Ancient Romans understood the value of hot water and steam, building bath houses to relax, heal, and hold political discussions. The modern equivalent—the hot tub—can also be used for relaxation and healing.
Harnessing Natural Properties
Hydrotherapy is a form of naturopathy, a type of complementary and alternative medicine that emphasizes nature's healing powers. Among the principles of naturopathy are the desire to let the body's natural processes restore health and a focus on treating the cause of a problem rather than the symptoms. Other examples are herbal medicines and homeopathy.
Healing Through Water
In its most basic form, hydrotherapy can simply constitute giving water to someone who is dehydrated. Adding warm compresses or ice packs to injuries are also forms of hydrotherapy, as is sitting in hot tubs. Applying warm water helps open up blood vessels, which draws blood to tissues and delivers oxygen and nutrients. Warm water can also relax muscles that are tense, decreasing muscle spasms. As a result, the person can feel less pain and move the affected area more easily.
Providing Physical Therapy
The hot tub can help ease the pain and tightness associated with conditions such as low-back pain. Turning on jets adds agitation to the warmth of the water to help increase blood flow and relax muscles. Water exercise is often used to help people build muscle strength and flexibility, especially when weight-bearing exercises are difficult. For example, use of a swim spa can help improve upper and lower body strength without the impact that comes from running or walking, which can exacerbate knee or hip problems for people with osteoarthritis.
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