Hydrotherapy as a concept, is regarded as one of the most common and accessible forms of physiotherapy to date. Swimming pool facilities, saunas, spas and even showers & baths all utilise this form of therapy and have been doing so for generations without us even knowing it.
As times get tougher and more demanding on us and our loved ones, and with the rise of both physical and mental health issues becoming a major concern within our society, hydrotherapy has been at the forefront at helping people cope with the stresses and struggles of day to day life.
But just how and why does hydrotherapy help millions of people every day with problems such as muscle pains, arthritis, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, anxiety & depression, sleep deprivation and much more? Well…let me explain.
Temperatures and the effects it has on the body
Temperature plays a big factor in hydrotherapy as various temperatures effect the body in different ways. Cold water has been known to increase your blood pressure and causes blood vessels in the deeper parts of your body tissue to dilate, resulting in better cardiovascular circulation. It also helps reduce pain and lowers your cortisol levels in your body due to an automatic stress response called ‘stress-induced analgesia’, which is triggered by cold water. Cold water baths are commonly used by athletes to reduce muscular soreness, fatigue and swelling after training or competing.
Cold water also has some cosmetic benefits, it tightens and constricts the blood flow which gives your skin a healthy glow. It addition to this, it closes and strengthens the cuticles in your hair. Unlike hot water, it doesn’t dry out the sebum layer, which is a naturally lubricated barrier that provides protection for your skin and hair. As a result, both your skin and hair may be more likely to become stronger and healthier over time.
Hot water also helps the body’s cardiovascular system due to your blood vessels widening as a natural response to your body’s exposure to high heat. This (much like cold baths) also helps reduce pains, swelling and soreness in both your muscles and joints.
Hot water also has the benefit of improving your brain’s health. In 2018, a small but incredibly useful study investigated the effects of hot water immersion on ‘brain-derived neurotrophic factors’, or BDNF for short. BDNF’s are proteins that serve several important functions in both your brain and spinal cord, including:
- Promoting the survival of nerve cells
- Promoting the growth and maintenance of nerve cells
- Promoting learning and memory
The study involved eight participants that were split into two groups. One group took a 20 minute bath in hot water with a temperature of 42°C and the other group took a 20 minute bath in warm water with a temperature of 35°C.
The study found that participants who took the hot bath had significantly higher BDNF levels then those who had a warm bath. With this information the researchers concluded that hypothermia induced by the hot bath increased the production of BDNF.
On the topic of your body’s response to heat, having hot baths also improves your sleep as your body relaxes when being submerged in hot water causing you to feel sleepy. So, if you want a better night’s sleep, make sure you have a nice hot soak first.
Water’s versatility vs physical health
While heat is an important factor in hydrotherapy, the water itself is equally as important, if not more so. The water supports our weight due to buoyancy, which helps relieve pressure in the muscles and joints, and the resistance of water helps improve joint movement and muscle strength.
People with conditions such as:
- Back pain
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Psoriatic arthritis
As well as those who have been through joint replacement surgery benefit massively with the aid of hydrotherapy sessions as part of the recovery process.
Water also contains certain minerals that your body and immune system needs like:
These minerals help with bone health, low blood pressure and heart health. So it’s best to keep hydrated inside and out.
In my opinion, hydrotherapy is a fantastic way to improve your mind and body. It’s accessible, it’s convenient, it’s less time consuming and in some cases, it could be seen as something very vital for those of poor health. So, if this doesn’t convince you to start bathing or having some me-time in a spa after a long day more often, then I don’t know what will.
Must Read: How to Keep Mental Health in the Optimum State?