Hydrotherapy: What Is It and How Can It Benefit You



  • Call it many names.
  • Perform it as a multitude of treatments.
  • Perform it in a variety of settings.

That is to say, providers commonly use hydrotherapy in traditional and integrated medicine practices. However, they have used it for centuries to treat and relieve a wide range of:

  • Illnesses
  • Issues
  • Symptoms

And, even though it is a popular form of treatment, you may not be familiar with precisely what hydrotherapy is and how it can benefit your health and well-being. So, let’s take a dive into the basics.

What Is Hydrotherapy?

You may have heard of hydrotherapy described as “water therapy.” And for a good reason. Hydrotherapy is the use of water, both internally and externally, to address health issues.

Depending on the treatment, providers heat or cool the water to offer relief from symptoms. Hydrotherapy treatments can include:

  • Footbaths
  • Saunas
  • Contrast therapy
  • Steam baths
  • Hot tub sits
  • Hot and cold showers

When Did the Use of Hydrotherapy Start?

The earliest documented use of hydrotherapy so far dates back to Hippocrates in ancient Greece. There are also references to hydrotherapy from Ancient Chinese, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations.

How do Hydrotherapy Treatments Work?

Hydrotherapy relieves pain, increases circulation, and cleanses the body in several ways. Here are just a few examples:

  • The use of cold water constricts your superficial blood vessels. This constriction moves blood flow away from the surface of the body down into the organs.
  • The use of hot water does three things.
    1. It dilates your superficial blood vessels.
    2. Removes waste from your body tissues.
    3. Activates your sweat glands.
  • Treatments include full or partial body submersion in water relieve gravity’s pressure on the body, giving you a weightless feeling as well as relieving your muscles and joints of pain.

What Benefits Does Hydrotherapy Offer?

Hydrotherapy is used to treat a variety of issues and symptoms, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Back problems
  • PMS and other menstruation problems
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Upper body congestion
  • Poor circulation
  • Colds, flu, and coughs
  • Skin disorders
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Stress and anxiety

Providers use hydrotherapy to:

  • Reduce aches and pains of sore muscles
  • Assist with issues related to hypertension
  • Relieve joint stiffness
  • Relieve headaches

What Kinds of Hydrotherapy Treatments are Available?

There are a wide variety of hydrotherapy treatments available. You can do some at home, while spas and health centers perform other types.

For more serious medical conditions, your provider may prescribe a hydrotherapy treatment professionals in a hospital setting can perform. Here are a few examples of conventional hydrotherapy treatments.

Sitz Bath

This treatment uses two tubs of water.

  • One is filled with warm water.
  • And one is filled with cold water.

The two tubs are next to each other so you can sit most of your body in one tub while your feet hang out in the other tub. And, after a predetermined amount of time, you swap tubs. Many use sitz baths to relieve:

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Menstruation problems


During this aquatic massage, a therapist performs a variety of specialized massage techniques on you while you float in a warm pool of water.

Warm Water Baths

These can be done at home or a spa by soaking in warm water for up to 30 minutes. In addition to and depending on your condition, you may choose to add:

  • Epsom salts
  • Aromatherapy oils
  • Mineral mud
  • Moor mud
  • Ginger
  • Dead sea salts


Many providers consider this form of treatment as an “air bath.” And, instead of using steam, a sauna uses dry, warm air to promote sweating.

Steam Bath (Turkish Bath)

Also called an “air bath,” because you sit in a steam-filled room while your body releases impurities.


During this therapy, providers place towels soaked in warm or cold water on targeted areas of the body. Cold compresses reduce inflammation and swelling, while warm compresses promote blood flow and ease sore muscles.


Firstly, this treatment is excellent for treating:

  • Skin disorders
  • Colds
  • Muscle pain

So, while you are lying in a comfortable position, a practitioner:

  1. Wraps you up in a cocoon of wet sheets.
  2. Places dry towels and blankets over you.

Contrast Hydrotherapy

Thankfully, you can perform this treatment at home in the shower.

  • Just before you finish your shower, decrease the temperature of the water. You don’t want it to be icy.
  • It should be a temperature you can comfortably tolerate for 30 seconds.
  • Alternate between warm and cold water for three 30-second cycles.
  • End the process with cold water.

Also, contrast therapy can help with:

  • Chronic pain
  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation
  • Soreness

Hot Fomentation

This therapy consists of using warm compresses or hot water bottles to relieve symptoms and decrease the length of acute conditions. For example, conditions such as chest colds and coughs.

Warming Socks

For instance, this treatment may improve circulation and help ease upper body congestion. And, you can do this one at home by:

  1. Soaking a pair of cotton socks with water.
  2. Wringing them out.
  3. Putting them on.
  4. Putting on a dry pair of wool socks over the wet socks.
  5. Going to bed.
  6. Removing the socks in the morning.

Hydrotherapy Pool Exercises

And, with the aid of a physiotherapist, you can perform these exercises in a warm-water pool. For example, warm water decreases gravity and offers gentle resistance, which is great for:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Musculoskeletal conditions

What Precautions Do I Need to Take Before Getting a Hydrotherapy Treatment?

Above all, hydrotherapy is a very gentle treatment. However, there are a few conditions that might inhibit you from “taking to the waters.” Always talk to your provider if any of the following apply to your situation.

  • High blood pressure or cardiovascular disease
  • Suffer from inflammation or acute injuries
  • Kidney disease or cancer
  • You are pregnant
  • Decreased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures

Lastly, if you require more than a warm bath at home or want more information on how hydrotherapy can benefit your specific situation, give us a call. Above all, we want to keep you happy and healthy.


Article Name
Hydrotherapy: What Is It and How Can It Benefit You
You may have heard of hydrotherapy described as "water therapy." Hydrotherapy is the use of water, both internally and externally, to address health issues.

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