What is Hydrotherapy? - Hot Tubs For Your Health Benefits

03/20/17 at 04:12 PM | Published Under Fitness Health and Wellness by John Polk

Hydrotherapy and Health

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy has been utilized for thousands of years. The Romans and Greeks treated a variety of conditions with it. Using three of nature's most powerful relieving agents: heat, water and air, it stimulates and gently massages the body while helping to ease away aches and pains. It's a natural therapy, that is safely used by hospitals, physiotherapists and health spas all around the world. You should first consult with your physician to see if this can benefit you. There are several different forms of hydrotherapy. The focus of this page are the therapeutic benefits that can be accomplished by hydromassage and hydrothermal therapy through use of hot tubs and spas.

woman sitting in hot tub - What is Hydrotherapy?

What is Hydrotherapy?

The three basic factors that compose hydrotherapy are: heat, buoyancy, and massage:

  • Immersion in hot water raises the body temperature and causes the blood vessels to dilate, that results in an increase in circulation.  
  • The buoyancy of the water reduces body weight by approximately 85-90%, which relieves pressure on the joints and muscles, while also creating the relaxing sensation of floating in space.
  • The massaging action of the spa is created by using a mixture of water and air through hot tub jet nozzles. This energized warm water helps to relax tight muscles and stimulate the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers.

What Usually Happens During Hydrotherapy?

  • After 5 minutes - the pulse rate and blood pressure may begin to drop.
  • After 8 minutes – the circulation improves in your feet and hands making them feel warmer.
  • After 12 minutes - the muscles relax, becoming more open to passive exercise. Tissue becomes more pliable and responsive to stretching, encouraging the release of lactic acid and other toxins from your body.
  • At 15 minutes - your minor aches and pains can often experience a temporary decrease in the severity.

 

Hydrotherapy For Everyday Aches, Pains and Tension

To reduce tension, a water temperature between 94° to 96° F, close to the skin temperature, will most often produce good results.  Many people have reported that a warmer water temperature between 102° to 104° F works great for loosening tense, tight muscles and reducing the pain of stress related conditions like backaches. Using temperature settings above 104°F is not recommended because it can raise your core temperature very fast, and induce an artificial fever.

If you dare, take a cold shower after you step out of the hot tub, like the Romans did as part of their bath ritual. This will bring an immediate rush of blood through your system, as well as an invigorating rush of natural energy.  Just as hot water opens and cleanses the pores, cool water closes them up afterward.

The evening is one of the best times to soak in hot water.  You will probably find that a good warm soak before going to bed will make falling asleep much easier, and you will likely experience deeper sleep throughout the night.   If you have any medical conditions or are pregnant, consult with your physician before starting any hydrotherapy regimen.

Soak Into a Great Night's Sleep with Hydrotherapy

The National Sleep Foundation recently conducted a poll which showed that 38% of men, and 48% of women suffer from some type of sleep disorder like insomnia, more than one night per week.  In fact, after pain, insomnia is the second leading reason that people make a visit to their doctors.

Soak Into a Great Night's Sleep

Researchers in this field believe that our frequently hectic and stress filled lifestyles are a major reason for the rise in insomnia cases.  Lack of sleep can cause memory problems, shattered nerves, and even mood swings and depression.

Many people have sought medications to help treat their sleeping problems.  But did you know that you can help your own body prepare for a good deep and restful sleep?  According to a report in the scientific publication Sleep, your body can be eased into a state of deep and relaxing sleep by a drop in body temperature after going to bed.  Soaking in hot water about 90 minutes before bedtime triggers your internal thermostat to lower your temperature, which will induce sleep to set in more easily. A fifteen minute soak in your hot tub before bed can be a natural way to achieve a night of restful sleep without the use of any drugs.  Most people awaken in the morning with a clear head, and no grogginess that is often associated with the use of sleeping medications or alcohol.

Can Hydrotherapy Help To Relieve Arthritis?

Arthritis, which we understand to be an inflammation of your joint or joints, resulting in pain and swelling, is actually the name for a family of over a hundred separate diseases.  These can include: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout and lupus.  By some estimates, one out of every three families has someone who suffers from one of these conditions. As stated in this article: Arthritis - Spas & Warm Water Exercise published by the Arthritis Foundation  "people whose arthritis symptoms respond well to heat have discovered the many benefits of heat therapy."

Hot Tub Jets for Hot tub hydrotherapy

If you do suffer from arthritis, you need to consult with your physician on the treatment regimen that is best for you.  This is because there are several safe and effective ways to minimize the loss of motion and the associated pain.  Your physician may recommend some exercise, use of warm water and heat, use of cold, or other treatments.  Some may be right for you, and others may not be.  That is why it is so important for your physician to be closely involved in your treatment.

In a hot tub, the buoyancy of its warm water hydrotherapy make it a ideal and safe environment for relieving arthritis symptoms including stiffness and pain while improving range of motion.

Warm water exercises are one method of hydrotherapy which is more gentle to the joints and muscles.  This is because the water supports the weight and lessens the stress on them so that it can encourage free movement.  It also provides some level of resistance that can assist in re-building muscle strength. Using a hot tub adds a third component to the therapy which is massage. A hot tub's jets release a mixture of warm water and air, that relaxes and massages your body. The Arthritis Foundation has published articles on the subject of water exercise.  You can speak with your physician and find out if hot water exercise or hydrotherapy is right for you.


Clinical Study

The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a study (08-16-1999) regarding the benefits of physical exercise and therapy from the use of hot tubs.  As reported, patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus were studied using a hot tub for 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.  After only 10 days, these patients required reduced doses of insulin, lost weight, showed distinct decreases in glycosylated hemoglobin and plasma glucose and, benefited from improved sleep and an increase in general sense of well-being.

The study also reported the benefits for patients who are unable to exercise. These patients would specifically benefit from increased blood flow to their skeletal muscles.  Once again, if you have this condition or any other medical issues, you must consult with your physician prior to starting any hydrotherapy program.

Weight Loss and Cellulite Reduction with Hydrotherapy

At first it may sound hard to believe, but the same study has shown that regular use of hot tubs can help aid in weight loss, as well as diminish the appearance of cellulite. This stems from the fact that soaking in a hot tub simulates exercise by dilating blood vessels and promoting better circulation, as it relaxes the muscles and skin. It also can increase the heart rate, and lower blood pressure. This seems to indicate that soaking in a hot tub may be beneficial for your body in many ways. As previously mentioned, the study was for diabetes research, but the results showed that the weight of the subjects was reduced by an average of almost four pounds each.  That's over a pound per week, just by soaking in a warm hot tub.

Regular use of hot tubs may also help diminish the appearance of cellulite. These fatty deposits that can typically gather on the hips, thighs, and buttocks of a lot of women that are past their 30’s can never be fully eliminated. The design of a woman's body naturally causes the skin to dimple out, whether they are overweight or thin.

By improving circulation to the areas that are affected by cellulite, the appearance of the fatty deposits can be reduced. Hot tub hydrotherapy stimulates the blood vessels and increases circulation. It also helps tone the body tissue, reduce fluid retention, and relieve swelling. All of these benefits combined can help result in the reduction of the appearance of cellulite.

Hydrotherapy and Back Pain

Ask anyone who owns a hot tub: they will tell you that they feel better after using their hot tub. For hundreds of years Europeans have used hot water therapy as a treatment for many various chronic diseases.  In fact, the Romans developed a wonderful hot springs resort in Bath, England sometime after their invasion in 43 A.D.

 Hot Tub Hydrotherapy for Back Pain

The effectiveness of this therapy for chronic low back pain has not been well documented until recently. In 1995, a study published in the British Journal of Rheumatology reported that spa therapy can have short and long term benefits in treating low back pain. 

Later a French study, published in the Journal of Rheumatology by another group of researchers, sought to quantify the overall benefits of hot water spa therapy.  It does appear to confirm these results. After three weeks of consistent hydrotherapy, the examinations showed more improvement in the health status (as measured in pain intensity and duration and back flexibility) of the treatment group than in the medication only group. After six months, there was significant improvement continued in the spa therapy group. In addition, the use of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs had decreased.

Cardiovascular Health

The Mayo Clinic found in a recent study that bathing in your hot tub simulates exercise, so soaking in one gives you some of the same health benefits of exercise but with less stress on the heart. A hot tub increases the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, instead of raising it like other forms of exercise do.

In the article Mayo Clinic OK's Spas for Heart Patients it states that spas may not pose as much risk to heart patients as previously it had been thought. The report stated that relaxing in a spa may actually be less stressful to your heart than working out on an exercise bike.

The research examined body temperature and cardiovascular stress experienced by fifteen patients who were at risk for heart disease both in hot water and on bicycles. The studies showed that exercise caused blood pressure to rise from an average of 121/73 to 170/84.  In opposition, sitting in a spa made the blood pressure drop from an average of 117/77 to 106/61.

The article goes on to state that in a hot tub, the heart naturally beats at a faster rate and heart disease patients want to know if the stress placed on the heart is too much.  If you do suffer from heart disease, consult with your physician first to see if hot tub bathing is appropriate for your heart condition.

Hydrotherapy Benefits for Athletes

Professional sports teams have long known the value of hot tub hydrotherapy, but all athletes can use the same therapy to aid in relieving sore muscles and minor aches and pains. Sports injuries, neck and back pain, muscle pulls and spasms, and soreness are often eased simply by a soak in the hot tub.

Hydrotherapy and athletes in a hot tub

It is also good preventative medicine. Since muscles and skin loosen and relax from the increased blood circulation, improvement in athletic performance can be seen by using your hot tub before and after you exercise.

Before any athletic activity, soaking relaxes and loosens muscles, and can reduce the risk of injury while improving your overall performance.

After physical exercise or activity of any kind, hot soaking helps to relax your muscles and wind back down.  It can also significantly decrease next-day muscle stiffness.

Note:  If you have any sports injury, consult with your physician before using a hot tub. It is sometimes necessary to treat swollen areas with cold first.  Your physician will likely advise you to avoid use of hot water until swelling of the injury has subsided.  When the swelling is gone, the massaging action of warm water circulation will generally help speed up the healing process.

Tax Deductions & Insurance Benefits

If your physician or other health professional advises you to follow a regular program of warm water exercises, and if the need for this treatment is your primary reason for buying a hot tub, all or a part of your purchase price may qualify for an income tax deduction as a medical expense in certain circumstances.

In its opinion letter Index No.: 213.05-00, the IRS states " Section 213(a) allows as a [tax] deduction the expenses paid during the taxable year for medical care of the taxpayer, spouse, or dependent.

About the Author

John John Polk

Owner of Colorado Springs Hot Tubs and a hot tub fanatic!