Hydrotherapy

Topic Overview

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is the use of water to treat a disease or to maintain health. The theory behind it is that water has many properties that give it the ability to heal:

  • Water can store and carry heat and energy.
  • Water can dissolve other substances, such as minerals and salts.
  • Water cannot hurt you, even if you are sensitive to your surroundings.
  • Water is found in different forms, such as ice, liquid, or steam. Ice may be used to cool, liquid is used in baths and compresses at varying pressures or temperatures, and steam is used in steam baths or when breathing in.
  • Water can help blood flow.
  • Water has a soothing, calming, and relaxing effect on people, whether in a bath, shower, spray, or compress.
  • Exercise in water takes the weight off a painful joint while also providing resistance.

What is hydrotherapy used for?

People use hydrotherapy to treat many illnesses and conditions, including acne; arthritis; colds; depression; headaches; stomach problems; joint, muscle, and nerve problems; sleep disorders; and stress. People also use it for relaxation and to maintain health.

You can also use hydrotherapy to reduce or relieve sudden or long-lasting pain.

Is hydrotherapy safe?

Hydrotherapy is generally safe if treatment is done properly. Different people may respond differently to the length and intensity of treatment. Some people may have headaches, aches and pains, sleep problems, nausea, chilliness, and faintness.

It is important to discuss your physical condition and medical history with your doctor or physical therapist before trying hydrotherapy.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Basford JR, Baxter GD (2010). Therapeutic physical agents. In WR Frontera et al., eds., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice, 5th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1691–1712. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  • Huyck A, Broderick K (2013). Hydrotherapy. In JE Pizzorno Jr, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 327–416. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Joan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
Last Revised March 7, 2013

Last Revised: March 7, 2013

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