What is Hydrotherapy?

Ancient Forms Of Hydrotherapy:

Hydrotherapy unfolds an ancient and a very long history relating to the therapeutic use of water. Hydrotherapy is also called as water therapy. Hydrotherapy is the use of water in the treatment of disease.

The use of water for therapy has been around for hundreds of years, as far back as 4500 BC, and forms an integral part in many traditional medicine systems. This involves the use of cold, ice, hot, or steam water to relieve pain and promote physical well-being. The vital element of an ancient Roman culture was the bathhouses. The usage of aromatic massage, baths, steam and to promote well being is accepted since the first century.

Bathhouses were extremely popular with the public all over Europe by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The first American public bathhouses made their appearance in the mid 1700s.

How Does Hydrotherapy Work?:

Hydrotherapy works on the healing properties of its thermal and/or mechanical effects. Hydrotherapy makes use of the body’s reaction to the pressure exerted by the water, to hot and cold stimuli, to the sensation of the water itself, to the protracted application of heat. Nerves help the sensation of the skin deeper into the body, it is then vital in stimulating the immune system, improving circulation and digestion, influencing the production of stress hormones, lessening the body’s sensitivity to pain and encouraging the flow of blood.


In general, heat helps to soothe and quiet the body, and to slow down the activity of internal organs. Cold is used to rejuvenate and stimulate, increasing internal activity within the body. If an individual is experiencing anxiety or tense muscles, heat is recommended in the shower or bath. For stressed out and tired feeling, it is recommended to take a warm shower or bath followed by a short cold shower to help stimulate the body and mind.

Pain or stress may lead to chemical changes in the body that can cause increased pulse rate and blood pressure. Regular hydrotherapy treatments help in reducing these symptoms by relieving and relaxing the swollen joints and slowing down the process of stress reaction. This helps to unwind and relax and helps to deal with pain easily.

Classification and Types of Hydrotherapy:

Hydrotherapy is generally categorized into two types.

  1. External Hydrotherapy: This type involves the application of water or ice to the body or immersion of the body in water whereas temperature-based hydrotherapy involves various effects of cold or hot water on the skin and underlying tissues. Hot water helps relaxes muscles and causes sweating, and is very helpful to treat poor circulation, sore muscles, arthritis, and rheumatism by using the combination of aromatherapy. Cold water hydrotherapy helps in stimulating underlying muscles and blood flow in the skin. Treatments based on temperature include the application of cold or moist heat to particular parts of the body. Treatment with moist heat is called fomentation, and is helpful for conditions such as flu, arthritis, or chest cold whereas cold compresses or ice packs help with headaches, dental surgery, or sprains. Body packs are helpful for detoxification and to calm psychiatric patients.
  2. Internal Hydrotherapy: Internal hydrotherapy includes colonic irrigation and enemas. Steam baths are a type of internal hydrotherapy. Colonic irrigation is an enema which is used for cleansing the entire bowel. It is believed to cure a number of digestive problems. Douching is another form of internal hydrotherapy, which directs a stream of water into the vagina for cleansing purposes. This is generally not the recommended form of therapy.

External hydrotherapy is done in different ways.

Sitz baths is the procedure where the patient sits in a specially made tub that makes the lower abdomen to be submerged in water that is of different temperature to the water around the feet. Sitz baths are suggested for treating menstrual cramps, hemorrhoids, prostate swelling, and other genitourinary disorders.

Motion-based hydrotherapy is a process where water is used under pressure to massage the body. This treatment is used for stress and anxiety but is more commonly used for joint or muscle injuries.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy

The benefits of hydrotherapy include:

  • Hydrotherapy is an outstanding treatment for relieving or reducing long-lasting or sudden pain.
  • Hydrotherapy significantly increases the elimination of waste assisted by detoxification.
  • Hydrotherapy helps loosen tight, tense muscles and encourages relaxation.
  • Hydrotherapy increases the digestion activity and metabolic rate. Hydrotherapy hydrates the cells and improves muscle and skin tone.
  • Hydrotherapy helps in boosting the immune system allowing it to function more efficiently.
  • Hydrotherapy stimulates the blood supply improving the function of the internal organs.
  • Hydrotherapy can rehabilitate injured limbs, treat burns and frostbite, lower fevers, soothe sore or inflamed muscles and joints, soothe headaches, clear up skin problems, ease labor pains, and promote relaxation.

Hydrotherapy Treatment For Various Medical Conditions:

For Pain Relief:

Hydrotherapy has proved to be a highly effective type of natural therapy which works by stimulating the endorphins which in turn help to alleviate tension and control pain.

For Circulation:

Hydro bath has an extraordinary and almost miraculous ability to improve circulation by providing nourishment and oxygen to entire cells and tissues.

For Immunity:

Conventional detoxing leads to a stronger immune system, which is able to manage controlling infections, bacteria and viruses. This also helps to overcome minor infections ranging from the common cold right up to deadly diseases.


Hydrotherapy helps in breaking stress cycle of everyday life and treat stress-related illnesses, which can cause a variety of psychological and physical problems like digestive complaints, high blood pressure, anxiety attacks, depression, headaches, insomnia and so on.


Hydro bath helps in regulating body’s temperature by improving the efficiency of perspiration glands. This releases the toxins from the body leading to a healthy glowing complexion and also helps reduce fluid retention and even have a remarkable effect on other ailments such as cellulite.


Hydrotherapy helps in treating arthritis by submerging into water either to soak or to exercise. This procedure is very helpful to treat stiffness and joint pains.

Back Pain:

Alternate hot and cold compresses are applied to the painful area for acute back pain. The hot compress will increase blood flow to the area and relax the muscles while the cold compress helps reduce inflammation. Chronic backaches may be benefited from alternating hot and cold showers.

Hydrotherapy for Acne:

Treatments like hot and cold wet compresses and colon hydrotherapy are proposed to cure acne.


Hydrotherapy helps to run the blood back to the external areas and away from the head. Insomnia is caused by too much blood in the brain. Applying hot foot baths, cold-water pack, alternate hot and cold showers is really effective.

Joint Pain:

Whirlpools, Jacuzzis, and hot tubs helps in treating muscle and joint pain and to regain muscle strength.


Hydrotherapy in the form of moist compresses is very useful for headaches.

Colonic Hydrotherapy for Stomach Problems:

Hydrotherapy is very effective in relieving stomach problems. Colonic hydrotherapy is very helpful when treating patients with irritable bowel syndrome, digestive problems, indigestion and constipation. Colonic hydrotherapy helps in alleviating the symptoms of bloating, gas and stomach cramps by flushing out the lower gastrointestinal tract and enhancing function of the bowel. Colonic hydrotherapy flushes out toxins, exercises the colon muscles and reshapes the colon to enable it to perform correctly.


Hydrotherapy has proved to counteract the bodily reactions caused by sciatica and reduce pain or ache by using its hot tub therapy. The body becomes weightless relieving it off the constant pull of gravity when submerged in a hot tub.

Hydrotherapy for Sleep Disorders:

Hot bath is very helpful to cure sleep disorders as it effects more accurately if taken before going to bed. The warm water from this bath raises body temperature and helps to sleep easily. Staying in a hot bath for more time is not recommended as this could lead to the risk of overheating.

Risks and Side Effects of Hydrotherapy:

Invasive hydrotherapy techniques like douching, colonic irrigation and enemas and are not well accepted because these internal cleansing techniques can actually cause harm to an individual by upsetting the natural balance of the digestive tract and the vagina.

Hydrotherapy can also put on a risk of allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis for some patients using essential herbs and oils in their bath water.

Overheating is the most likely side effect of hydrotherapy, which can be very harmful. This may occur when an individual spends too much time in a hot tub or Jacuzzi.

Contraindications for Hydrotherapy:

Cold baths should not be used for the elderly people or young children. People suffering from heart diseases must avoid Sauna baths.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 8, 2022

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