Most people like a good soak in a warm bath, but did you know that warm water could also be a form of therapy used to treat aches, pains, stiffness and fatigue? Water has been used to treat disease as far back as ancient Greece and Rome. This ancient form of healing is called Hydrotherapy and it is as relevant today as it was then.
What is Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is a type of physical therapy that uses water to provide a low-impact environment for exercise, thereby decreasing the amount of stress placed on the joints. Hydrotherapy is normally conducted in a pool of warm water while you perform exercises specific to your condition. Hydrotherapy differs from water aerobics which involves strenuous exercise. Hydrotherapy focuses instead, on using slow, deliberate movements.
How Does Hydrotherapy Help?
Most people experience pain relief and better range of motion in their joints after hydrotherapy, regardless of the underlying cause of their chronic joint pain. The warm water supports the body, soothes aching joints and helps muscles to relax. The resistance of the water as the body moves combined with the water’s buoyancy helps to build muscle strength with minimal risk of straining the joints. The water’s buoyancy and resistance also act as a gentle body massage, improving circulation and relaxing the mind and body.
Is Hydrotherapy Effective?
Studies have shown hydrotherapy to improve strength and physical fitness in people with many types of arthritis. A major study funded in 2003 by the National Institutes of Health recommended that hydrotherapy is a good environment for patients with osteoarthritis to perform aerobic exercise with greater intensity than is possible on land. While hydrotherapy will not build muscle strength as quickly as gym based exercise programs, it is much safer for the joints. Some studies have found that people who participated in hydrotherapy programs at least twice a week experienced up to a 40% decrease in pain.
Does Hydrotherapy Pose Any Risks?
Hydrotherapy has a low risk of injury or side effects when properly supervised. Drowning, overheating and falling around the pool are the most commonly reported injuries and generally occur when people attempt hydrotherapy unsupervised. Hydrotherapy in very warm water is generally not recommended for people with heart, lung or circulatory disorders.