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WHAT IS HYDROTHERAPY AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Unveiling the Healing Power of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a therapeutic technique that uses water to address various conditions such as arthritis, rheumatic complaints, and other ailments. While it might resemble swimming, hydrotherapy involves performing specific exercises in a warm pool, with water temperatures ranging from 33–36ºC. This is significantly warmer than the temperature of a typical swimming pool. Hydrotherapy sessions often take place in a hospital's physiotherapy department, conducted by specialised physiotherapists or other trained movement health practitioners, such as our own exercise physiologist and Full Circle Co-Founder, Brendan McCann, in Brisbane.


man doing hydrotherapy in pool

How Does Hydrotherapy Work?

Hydrotherapy employs both mechanical and thermal effects to promote healing. It utilises the body's response to hot and cold stimuli, water pressure, prolonged heat application, and the sensation of water on the skin. These sensations and effects are transmitted deeper into the skin via nerves.


This process stimulates the immune system, influences the release of stress hormones, and improves digestion, circulation, blood flow, and the body's sensitivity to pain. Typically, heat is employed to relax and calm the body, reducing the activity of internal organs, while cold is used to invigorate and stimulate, increasing internal activity. For instance, if you are experiencing anxiety and tense muscles, a hot bath is recommended, whereas a hot shower followed by a brief cold shower can refresh your mind and body if you are feeling stressed and fatigued.

Submerging your body in water, such as a pool or a bath, provides a sense of weightlessness, alleviating the effects of gravity on your body.


Water also creates a hydrostatic effect and a massage-like sensation as it moves around your body. This movement stimulates the skin's touch receptors, enhancing blood circulation and relaxing tight muscles.


Types of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy can be categorised into two main types: external and internal hydrotherapy.


External Hydrotherapy

This method involves the application of ice or water to the body or immersing the body in water. It focuses on temperature-based hydrotherapy techniques, such as the effects of hot and cold water on the skin and underlying tissues. Hot water induces sweating and muscle relaxation, effectively treating poor circulation, arthritis, rheumatism, and sore muscles. It is often combined with aromatherapy for enhanced results.


Cold water hydrotherapy, on the other hand, stimulates underlying muscles and increases blood flow to the skin. Common treatments include the application of cold and moist heat to specific body parts, referred to as fomentation. Fomentation is beneficial for treating conditions like arthritis, flu, and chest colds. Ice packs or cold compresses alleviate pain associated with dental surgery, headaches, and sprains, while body packs help calm psychiatric patients and support detoxification.


External hydrotherapy is performed in various ways, such as sitz baths, where patients sit in a specially designed bath with their abdomen fully submerged in water. These baths are recommended for treating hemorrhoids, menstrual cramps, prostate swelling, and other genitourinary conditions.


Motion-based therapy uses high-pressure water to massage the body, relieving stress and anxiety.


hydrotherapy woman in ice bath

Internal Hydrotherapy

Internal hydrotherapy includes treatments like enemas, colonic irrigation, and steam baths. Colonic irrigation cleanses the entire bowel, addressing numerous digestive issues and conditions. Douching, another form of internal hydrotherapy, involves directing a water stream to the vagina for cleansing; however, many practitioners do not recommend this method.


Benefits of Hydrotherapy

  • Effectively treats chronic pain

  • Loosens tense, tight muscles while promoting relaxation

  • Increases metabolic rate and digestion activity

  • Hydrates body cells and improves skin and muscle tone

  • Boosts the immune system, enhancing its efficiency

  • Stimulates blood supply to various organs in the body

Hydrotherapy has been used for many years to treat a range of health conditions. One of its primary advantages is its natural approach, which generally does not cause major negative side effects. By using hydrotherapy and other aquatic physical therapies, individuals can avoid relying on medication or undergoing expensive surgical procedures. However, if symptoms persist after treatment, it is advisable to seek professional medical care. For more information about hydrotherapy please contact us on 5456 1599.



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