Hydrotherapy is the use of water in many forms to support and speed up healing. Water may be applied to the entire body (full immersion) or to parts of the body (partial immersion), hot or cold, and with or without additives such as herbs, minerals, or essential oils.
Hydrotherapy treatments may last from a few minutes to over an hour, depending on the extent of the treatment area, as well as the condition treated.
Hydrotherapy comes in many forms:
Baths and Showers — cleansing, relaxation, cooling, heating, or to wake up
Foot Baths — to cleanse, invigorate, relax, or detoxify the feet and ankles; may also stimulate or calm areas further away
Sitz Baths — to cleanse, invigorate, or relax the perineum (area between the legs, from the pubic bone back to the anus); also helpful with conditions of the bladder and reproductive organs, diaper rash, and skin infections or inflammation of the perineum
Steam Baths — full body immersion to relax the muscles, calm the nerves, and detoxify the body
Compresses — wet pieces of cloth, hot or cold, wrapped around, or placed on, a body part to reduce pain or discomfort, swelling, or inflammation
Lavage and Irrigation — to clear nasal passages and ear canals, or to wash the eyes, as well as to cleanse wounds; helpful with sinusitis and nasal congestion
Mouth Rinse (or gargle) — to reduce pain and inflammation inside the mouth and throat, or freshen the breath
Enemas — to stimulate bowel movements, promote healing of the rectum, or as part of a detoxification regimen
Wraps — to promote sweating and stimulate the immune system
Ice Packs — to decrease inflammation, pain, and swelling with acute injuries
Hydration — daily drinking of water; rehydration after excessive sweating with exercise, heat, or fever, as well as fluid loss due to vomiting and diarrhea
Water Exercise — movement therapy that eliminates the stress of gravity
Heating Compresses — a cold, wet compress applied to the feet, throat, or chest and the body part plus compress wrapped in a dry cloth, towel, or blanket, letting the body warm up the compress; helps to speed recovery from the cold or flu; can also apply to any other body part to promote healing
Contrast Hydrotherapy — alternating hot with cold to stimulate blood circulation and lymph flow
Reading this list you will realize that you are, or have been, utilizing some of these forms on a daily, or occasional, basis.
Hydrotherapy can help to alleviate many conditions, among them:
- respiratory infections like the cold, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia
- digestive problems
- pelvic congestion and pain during menstruation
- poor blood and lymph circulation
- a weakened immune system
- inflammation, swelling, and pain from injuries or infections
- general ill health
While the use of water is generally safe, it is important to know that hydrotherapy can cause harm if applied improperly or when contraindicated by ill health.
Contraindications to hydrotherapy may be:
- impaired sensation from nerve damage due to trauma or other health conditions, such as diabetes
- heart disease
- skin lesions
- kidney disease
- joint inflammation
- peripheral vascular disease (arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis)
A naturopathic doctor can assist you with the use of the various forms of hydrotherapy, taking into account your current state of health and health needs.