by Cindy Murdoch – Staff Writer
Water is essential for life; but it can also be used to sustain life by calming the soul and healing the body.
Various forms of hydrotherapy have been used through the ages to maintain health and to prevent and treat disease. Egyptian royals used it to bathe in including the use of flowers and essential oils. Hippocrates treated illness by prescribing bathing in spring water. It has long been used in China; and in Japan its use is centered primarily around their Japanese hot springs. In fact, hot springs worldwide are enjoyed for their mental and physical healing benefits.
“This is an area that is so safe and so potentially useful … you should not hesitate to try any form of hydrotherapy that is suggested for whatever ails you.” – Isadore Rosenfeld, M.D.
Hydrotherapy is Commonly Used
You’ve probably used hydrotherapy without even realizing it. Who hasn’t iced an injury, soaked in a hot tub to relax, or inhaled steam to clear clogged sinuses? These are all forms of hydrotherapy, which is sometimes referred to as water therapy.
There are many treatments in which hydrotherapy may be used including poultices, alternating hot and cold compresses, saunas and steam cabinets, soaks, showers, whirlpool bath,wraps, ice packs, etc. Even drinking a glass of ice water could qualify as hydrotherapy under certain circumstances. Water therapy treatments can have a hug impact on the health of the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and immune systems.
The main principle behind water therapy is that by applying moist heat and/or cold, the circulation of the blood and other bodily fluids can be increased. It can also be used to stimulate the nervous system. In this respect, ice acts as a tonic and as an anesthetic, as well as a way to reduce swelling; and heat can be used to enhance circulation and to relax muscles and nerves.
Water can also be used to assist and strengthen the body’s natural defense system, helping the body to eliminate accumulated toxins and wastes. This can be accomplished by irrigating the colon, using moist heat (steam) to increase perspiration, or even simply by drinking water. These water therapy practices are used to fight disease by supporting the body’s natural defenses helping it to eliminate and remove germs and toxins.
Typically, hydrotherapy is used as a component of a holistic treatment program rather than as a stand-alone cure.
Dr. Rosenfeld, author of Dr. Rosenfeld’s Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn’t, and What’s Right for You, shares:
“This (hydrotherapy or water treatment) is an area that is so safe and so potentially useful that – regardless of the theoretical disputes between the two camps (the orthodox medical doctors and the complementary practitioners) – you should not hesitate to try any form of hydrotherapy that is suggested for whatever ails you.”
What Conditions Can Be Treated with Hydrotherapy?
The answer to this question depends who you ask. Naturopathic, Dr. Douglas C. Lewis, past instructor of physical medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, explains it like this, “That’s like asking an M.D. what they use drugs for. We treat anything drugs can be used for with hydrotherapy.” It’s that simple. Hydrotherapy is used extensively as a holistic method of treatment for whatever ails you.
In short, when an orthodox medical doctor or physical therapist prescribes hydrotherapy, their intent is to use it as water exercise or first aid for an injury. Holistic practitioners use it much more extensively and for a much broader range of illnesses and injuries.
Let’s look at five of the main conditions or illnesses that have been successfully treated using hydrotherapy by both the orthodox medical community and the holistic practitioner.
- Arthritis – moist heat is used to relieve pain by increasing the blood flow to the affected area. It can also be used to relax painful joints and weak muscles so that they may be strengthened through the use of exercise.
- Cardiovascular conditions – the heart and lungs can be strengthened through the use of water exercises.
- Infections – many different types of infections are treated through the use of hydrotherapy: skin conditions, gastrointestinal, genitourinary and bowel.
- Sports injuries/first aid/rehabilitation – a broad range of treatments are used in these applications. Everything from compresses, ice packs, and water exercises are used to treat conditions such as sprains, bruises, strains, spasms, cramps and circulatory problems.
- Wound care – Burns, wounds and ulcers are treated through various treatments such as whirlpool and compresses.
Holistically, hydrotherapy is also used to treat:
- anxiety and panic disorders
- immune system support for chronic fatigue syndrome
- immune system support for HIV/AIDS
Colonic irrigation and sweat bath are used to treat:
- food poisoning
- drug overuse/abuse, smoking and alcohol included
- chemical sensitivities
- elimination of and exposure to environmental toxins
Other conditions that can benefit from the use of hydrotherapy include: headaches, colds and sore throats, coughs, eye and ear infections, headaches, sinusitis, bladder infections, strep throat, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and back pain.
Although these applications are not endorsed by all, and may not even be well documented in the mainstream medical literature, scientific evidence is available. European clinical studies as well as laboratory studies and clinical practice by naturopathic doctors and holistic practitioners has shown time and again that hydrotherapy, also known as water therapy, is safe and effective.