Hydrotherapy is the use of water for treatment. Different temperatures promote varied reactions in the body while the sensation to the skin stimulates the nervous system. Heat soothes and loosens muscles, cool calms inflammation, promotes healing, and reduces pain, and hydro static pressure provides gentle massage. Here are some simple hydrotherapy applications:
- Cold water bath: For sore and tired hands, arms, feet, and legs. If you work at a computer, with your hands, or you’re on your feet consider doing this once a week as a preventative measure. If you have osteoarthritis or chronic pain in these areas, you can do this more frequently for pain relief. Submerge hands, arms, or feet in a bucket of cold water until the water is room temperature.
- Ice massage: Used over a specific pain pattern for relief and to reduce inflammation. Cover ice with a plastic bag or wrap and trace over the painful area. There will be 4 stages of sensation: cold, burn, ache, and numb. Keep tracing the ice back over the pain pattern until you reach numbness. For convenience, you can freeze water in paper bathroom cups to use on all areas, or in a plastic water bottle to roll under sore and tired feet (this is great for plantar fasciitis!).
- Direct heat: For achy muscles. Apply heat (I recommend a hot water bottle or wheat bag over an electric method for more moist, penetrating heat) directly over achy muscles for 15 minutes maximum, allowing at least 30 minutes between applications. Beware that over heating excites an inflammatory reaction in the body which brings more congestion and eventual adhesion. Heat only works in a positive manor in short increments.
- Steam: For nasal congestion or achy hands and feet. Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil and remove from heat. In a comfortable place, position your face, hands, or feet above the pot and cover with a towel to keep the steam in. Stay in this position until there is no longer steam or for as long as you can. For extra nasal clearing and muscle and joint soothing add a peppermint tea bag to the water while it heats up.
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR HYDROTHERAPY
- Never use heat above the neck or over the heart. This puts too much stress on your circulatory system. Use a cold compress over the pain pattern of a head ache or migraine.
- If using ice, always stop once you have reached numbness to prevent skin irritation. Otherwise, there is no risk to using an unlimited amount of cold hyrotherapy.