The ways water is and has been used is numerous. This is because water can provide a wide variety of health benefits. This can depend on if the water is being used internally or externally. The health benefits can also differ depending on the quality of the water, the pressure, the length of the treatment, the temperature, and the patterns in which it is applied.
Hydrotherapy can be a specific treatment performed by a healthcare practitioner or it can be used in our daily lives. It can be as simple as home remedies like hot and cold showers, ice packs for a sprained ankle, herbal compresses, Epsom salt baths, nasal irrigation, enemas, or Magic Socks while ill (see @wellnessmpls on Instagram for a demo of how to use this form of hydro at home). It can also be a treat like mineral baths or hot springs where the water contains certain minerals. It can be meditative like float tanks. Hydrotherapy can even range to include saunas, mud baths, and spa treatments. A more specific version of water therapy is one of my personal favorite treatments called Constitutional Hydrotherapy.
Constitutional hydrotherapy was developed by Dr. Otis G. Carroll in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s. This treatment combines water therapy with mild electrical stimulation to promote the overall health of patients. Even more specifically it is the practice of alternating hot and cold towels with the use of a sine wave.
Specifically, the hot and cold contrast works by dilating and constricting blood vessels, increasing blood flow and lymph flow throughout the body, especially to organs of elimination such as our skin, liver, kidneys, intestines and lungs. While the sine wave gently stimulates nerve input to these organs, as well as to nerves throughout the entire body, which helps to tonify and support appropriate input to and from the nervous system.
Although this treatment is gentle, it is can have profound effects. Constitutional hydrotherapy can be performed in-office by a health practitioner or can be done at home with simple modifications. The treatment in-office is often a more powerful treatment due to the addition of the sine wave and the ability to be treated by someone else other than yourself.
Hydrotherapy can be used in acute health conditions for a few days in a row until the illness resolves. It can also be used to support people through their chronic health conditions. It can aid in digestive support, supporting healthy mood, improving immune function, relaxing muscles, and can aid in detoxification. The treatment works by stimulating the body’s own innate ability to heal.
The treatment is ideally performed in a relaxing environment allowing the patient to be in a parasympathetic state. This is our rest and relax state. In our busy culture, finding time to be in this restful state is very important for our health. This state of relaxation is promoted by the treatment itself, but can also be enhanced with diffused essential oils, calming music, and dim lights. The entire treatment takes around one hour. Vitals, including blood pressure, respiration rate, pulse rate, temperature, and blood oxygenation are taken before and after treatment to measure the body’s response to treatment.
Constitutional hydrotherapy is best used as a part of a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan.
Hydrotherapy, as a whole, is a great way to promote self-care while also incorporating one of the most important parts of nature into our daily lives!
Boyle, Wade, and Andŕe Saine. Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy. Buckeye Naturopathic Press, 1988.
Thrash, Agatha M., and Calvin L. Thrash. Home Remedies: Hydrotherapy, Massage, Charcoal, and Other Simple Treatments. NewLifestyle Books.