Hydrotherapy is the therapeutic application of water in all its forms, liquid, vapor, or solid, to restore health; it involves the use of water for pain relief, inflammation, treating illnesses, viruses, and infections, and improving the immune system and circulation.
History of Hydrotherapy
There are many references in the Bible of water being used in healing. Records of the writings of Hippocrates indicate water was used in healing as early as 450 BC. It was used extensively in Roman baths.
In more modern times Vincent Priessnitz (1799-1851) is known as the father of hydrotherapy. When he was a young man, he received a serious injury from a farm animal. Being given no hope of recovery by the physicians, he decided to use hydrotherapy on himself, as he had previously used on farm animals. He made a rapid recovery. He established a hydrotherapy institute in Austria, and many came to study and learn his methods.
During the mid-1850s a number of water-cure institutes were established in this country, including Eureka Springs, where we reside! James Jackson (1811-1895) established an institute in Dansville, NY. He stated, “In my entire practice I have never given a dose of medicine...I have used in the treatment of my patients the following—air, food, water, sunlight, dress, exercise, sleep, rest, social influences, and mental and moral forces.” How to Treat the Sick without Medicine, p. 25, 26 (Fowler and Wells, NY, 1868). Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, led by John Harvey Kellogg, soon became known as “the place to learn to stay well” and became world-renowned. Dr. Kellogg wrote The Hydrotherapy Rationale volumes 1 and 2.
During the 1918-1919 Great Flu Pandemic, 50+ million people died. Over one-third of the then population of the world, 500 million, were infected. (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic- history.htm). “Those who received hydrotherapy and judicious nursing care survived the ordeal.” E. Qualls, P.T. Hydrotherapy. Wildwood’s College of Health Evangelism. 2014. Hydrotherapy has also been used as a treatment for our latest pandemic, COVID-19, with amazing results.
How does it work?
Water has 27 times greater capacity for conducting heat than air. For example, you can step into a refrigerator at 32°F with the skin bare and suffer little discomfort, however, step into a tub of water at 32°F and you will feel a shock because of the much greater ability of water to conduct heat from the surface of the body. Water has great heat conveying and tactile properties affecting the vascular, lymphatic, and respiratory (circulatory) systems, nervous, immune, and endocrine systems as well as the muscles, metabolism, white blood cells, and other tissues and organs of the body.
Hydrotherapy treatments use the body’s own defense mechanisms to promote healing. Water plays a different role in different hydro treatments, i.e. thermal, mechanical and chemical. For example, when a person steps into a cold shower, the body reacts defensively against the threat of reduced core temp by increasing many of its metabolic functions. When the shower is over, the person experiences an increased flow in surface blood vessels, increased muscle and tissue tone, increased function in the endocrine system, and a prolonged feeling of warmth. Hot and cold treatments affect the body through temperature and water’s role is simply to transmit heat and cold. Mechanical treatments such as frictions, sprays, or whirlpool jets affect the body primarily by using water to apply pressure to the skin in various ways.
Hydro treatments affect more than one body system at the same time. Any treatment affects the nervous system through sensory receptors in the skin and the entire circulatory system (vascular, lymphatic, endocrine, and respiratory systems).
Hot or cold treatments and mechanical treatments can redistribute blood or lymph within the circulatory system. For example, a contrast leg bath given to a person with sprained ankle can help reduce swelling (ice would be applied for the first 24 hours and hot and cold contrast thereafter).
Mechanical hydro treatments stimulate not only the skin but the nerve endings, blood vessels, lymph vessels, and muscles it contains. Treatments such as salt glows, showers, whirlpool jets, percussion douches, brushing, and friction have an intensely stimulating effect that is similar to tapotement and vibration massage strokes.
Warm water treatment increase pulse and respiration, blood volume and vessel size (vasodilation), white/red blood cell, nervous system responses, and perspiration. Cold water treatments decrease muscle action, constrict blood vessels (vasoconstriction), congestion or inflammation of affected area(s), pulse and respiration, and pain. The effect of alternating hot and cold is that of an efficient local blood pump. Wastes are removed from the body part and new blood and nutrients are brought in by the blood. Alternating hot and cold speeds the bodies healing ability by increasing blood flow (white and red blood cells) and nutrients to congested and/or diseased areas:
“The external application of water is one of the easiest and most satisfactory ways of regulating the circulation of the blood. A cold or cool bath is an excellent tonic. Warm baths open the pores and thus aid in the elimination of impurities. Both warm and neutral baths soothe the nerves and equalize circulation...Many have never learned by experience the beneficial effects of the proper use of water, and they are afraid of it... There are many ways in which water can be applied to relieve pain and check the disease. All should become intelligent in its use in simple home treatments.” Ministry of Healing, p. 237.
T. C. came to me and asked if I could help her with her shingles outbreak because she did not want to take medication for it. We began a series of hydrotherapy treatments and after the first treatment her pain was gone and after her third treatment the breakout was healed, and she has had no more residual pain.
Schedule a hydrotherapy session today and see the difference it can make for you.
“A wicked messenger falls into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health.”