The Many Uses of Hydrotherapy

My father had varicose veins since he was a young man. The last 10-15 years of his life he would soak his legs in buckets of water and do what is called Hydrotherapy. He used 2 big horse buckets in the bath tub; 1 bucket was filled with hot water and the other bucket had cold water. My father would submerge both legs in the hot water bucket for a few minutes and then in the cold bucket. He did this every day alternating between the 2 buckets of water for 20-30 minutes. This Hydrotherapy method opens and closes the Venous valves (2 flap like structures made of elastic tissue) in the veins. The valves function to keep blood moving in one direction. Opening (hot water) and closing (cold water) the tiny valves pumps the blood up to the heart and while doing so also strengthens the valves in the veins.

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy also referred to as “Water Therapy” has been around for thousands of years, recorded to be used by ancient cultures including India, Egypt, Greece and China. It is also one of the naturopathic treatment modalities used to this day. Hydrotherapy is the use of water, both internally and externally with varying temperatures, for health purposes. Hydrotherapy is often done at health centers, spas, or at home.

How Does Hydrotherapy Work?

The healing properties of hydrotherapy are based on its mechanical and/or thermal effects. It makes use of the body’s reaction to hot and cold stimuli. It can include hot water and cold water, use of ice or steam to relieve pain and promote physical well-being. Each of these methods of Hydrotherapy has a different effect on the body. Alternating hot and cold water decreases the inflammation and stimulates circulation and lymphatic drainage.

Spinal conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) respond very well to alternating a hot and cold compress continuously down the spine. This Hydrotherapy method connects the signals from the brain to the body by stimulating the nerves down the spinal column. This process helps to regenerate the nerves with regular use (daily or 4-5 times per week).

History of Hydrotherapy

Vincent Preissnitz (1799–1851) was the son of a peasant farmer who, as a young child, observed a wounded deer bathing a wound in a pond near his home. Over the course of several days, he would see this deer return and eventually the wound was healed. The story goes, later as a teenager, Preissnitz was attending to a horse cart, when the cart ran him over, breaking three of his ribs. A physician told him that they would never heal. Preissnitz decided to try his own hand at healing himself, and wrapped his wounds with damp bandages. By daily changing his bandages and drinking large quantities of water, after about a year, his broken ribs had been cured. Preissnitz quickly gained fame in his hometown and became the consulted physician.

Later in life, Preissnitz became the head of a hydropathy clinic in Gräfenberg in 1826. He was extremely successful and by 1840, he had 1,600 patients in his clinic including many fellow physicians, as well as important political figures such as nobles and prominent military officials. Treatment length at Preissnitz’s clinic varied, healing could happen quickly, or could occur after three to four years. Ultimately, Preissnitz’s clinic was extremely successful, and he gained fame across the western world.

Types of External Hydrotherapy:

  • Baths and Showers – Immersion in cold water bath and Contrast water Therapy (alternating hot/cold). This is the method we are most familiar with for injuries or after athletic activity for pain relief. Also used to stimulate the lymphatic system, arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, back pain, sciatica and headaches.

Did you know when you soak in warm water with Epsom salts you are doing a form of Hydrotherapy? Mineral mud, aromatherapy oils, ginger, moor mud, and Dead Sea salts may be added to your warm bath.

  • Hot and Cold Compresses or Contrast (alternating hot and cold) Compresses – Towels are soaked in warm and/or cool water and then placed on a particular area on the body. Cool compresses reduce inflammation and swelling, while warm compresses promote blood flow and ease stiff and sore muscles, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), headaches, back pain, etc.

Headaches respond very well to hot and cold compresses. When you have a headache, you feel a throbbing somewhere in your head. The throbbing pain is due to the increased flow of blood pumped from the heart to the head. Hydrotherapy can be used to move the blood from the head down past the heart. The blood is then directed, to other parts of the body which are warmer than the head; usually to the feet. The idea is to move the blood down past the heart to a warmer area to give relief to the head. This is done when you place a cool wash cloth on the forehead and warm on the feet such as socks, blanket, etc.; while laying down. As the blood moves down to your feet, you will start to feel more comfortable, relaxed and may even fall asleep.

  • Hydrotherapy Pool Exercises – Exercising in a warm-water pool. Most recently pool exercises have been used more often for back pain, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions. The warm water allows you to exercise without fighting gravity and offers gentle resistance.
  • Sitz Baths and Contrast Sitz Baths (hot and cold) – Sitz baths are an old method used for hemorrhoids, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menstruation problems.
  • Water Births – Delivering a baby in tub of warm water. The theory behind water births is that since the baby has been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing in similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother.
  • Foot baths also called Ionic Foot Detox – A Hydrotherapy method use to pull toxins out of your body through your feet. The ions in the foot bath water hold a charge that enables them bind to any heavy metals and toxins in your body.
  • Cold Mitten Friction Rub – Combines a brisk massage with cool temperatures, using a cloth imbibed with ice-cold water; the rub is said to increase circulation, boost the immune system, accelerate recuperation from respiratory tract infections, and used for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

How many of you have done a Steam Inhalation or Sauna Bath?

  • Steam Therapy – Is the inhalation of water vapor. The warm, moist air works by loosening the mucus in the nasal passages, throat, and lungs.
  • Saunas – Whether it is a dry or wet method, the idea is the warm room promotes sweating to help the body release impurities.
  • Turkish Baths – Steam rooms are filled with warm, humid room heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air, allowing the body to perspire freely. You mover to an even hotter room before they wash in cold water. After having a full body wash and a massage, the final room is the cooling-room for a period of relaxation.
  • Body Wraps – This Hydrotherapy is done while lying down, cold wet flannel sheets are used to wrap the body. You are then covered with dry towels and then blankets. The body warms up in response and dries the wet sheets. It’s used for colds, skin disorders, and muscle pain.
  • Wet Sheet Pack and Warming Socks – A pair of wet cotton socks, wet thoroughly, then wrung out and put then on your feet. Then a dry pair of wool socks are pulled over the wet socks. You go to bed and remove the socks in the morning. The cold, wet socks improve circulation in the body and help ease upper body congestion, fever.
  • Sea Salt Glow also called Salt Scrub – Is a rigorous massage with sea salts or Epsom salts, that improves poor circulation and removes toxins from the body. The massage cleanses the skin by exfoliating and removing old skin cells, leaving you with hydrated, smooth, more lustrous skin.
  • Watsu – Is an aquatic massage where the therapist uses massage techniques while you float comfortably in a warm water pool. This Hydrotherapy is a one-on-one session in which a practitioner or therapist gently cradles, moves, stretches, and massages you while you are in chest-deep warm water.

Types of Internal Hydrotherapy:

  • Colonic Irrigation also known as a Colon Cleanse – Removes nonspecific toxins from the colon and intestinal tract by removing any accumulations of feces.
  • Enema also known as a Clyster – Is an injection of fluid into the lower bowel by way of the rectum. Most used to relieve constipation and for bowel cleansing before a medical examination or procedure.
  • Steam Baths (mention above) – Are considered as a form of internal hydrotherapy

Benefits of Hydrotherapy Include:

  • A great treatment for relieving or reducing long-lasting or sudden pain.
  • Significantly increases the elimination of waste assisted by detoxification.
  • Helps loosen tight, tense muscles and encourages relaxation.
  • Hydrotherapy hydrates and oxygenates the cells and improves muscle and skin tone.
  • Helps boost the immune system allowing it to function more efficiently.
  • Stimulates the blood supply improving the function of the internal organs.
  • Rehabilitate injured limbs, treat burns and frostbite, lower fevers.

Hydrotherapy is a great modality to use in helping to speed the healing process of various health conditions. Homeopathy and Hydrotherapy work very well together. Whether you are using self-care or going to a clinic, spa and Homeopathic consultant these methods can be used to treat chronic and acute conditions, facilitating the body’s natural healing processes.

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About the Author: Virangini Cindy

Virangini Cindy Rounsaville, C. Hom., is a homeopathic health consultant and educator who has been involved with homeopathy since the early 1980's. She has studied the field extensively with internationally known homeopath and author Dr. Robin Murphy, N.D., among others. She began teaching and consulting in 1983 and, along with her late father Louis Dion, C. Hom. began a homeopathic study group in Hunterdon County, NJ to help people learn and use homeopathy in their daily lives. Virangini Cindy works closely with medical doctors, chiropractors, and other homeopathic and holistic practitioners. She has incorporated Rasavidya Medical Astrology (different than regular astrology) into her practice as well. Having practiced QiGong since the 1980's, she uses medical QiGong poses alongside the medical astrology to help individuals with life issues and chakra balancing.