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Hydrotherapy

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • Aqua lymphatic therapy, aquatic physical therapy, arm bath, balneopelotherapy, balneoradonokinesitherapy, balneotherapy, bath, climatotherapy, cold arm bath, cold foot bath, cold rubbings, cold therapy, cold water cure, colonic hydrotherapy, colonic irrigation, constitutional hydrotherapy, crenotherapy, Dead Sea balneotherapy, Dead Sea bath, douche, dry-air radon bath, external hydrotherapy, fomentation, foot bath, home spa, hot springs, hot therapy, hot tub, hot tub therapy, ice water immersion, immersion bath, internal hydrotherapy, Jacuzzi®, jet spray, local hydrotherapy, mineral bath, motion-based hydrotherapy, motion-based treatment, mud bath, pack, poultice, purifying bath, radon bath, radon and iodine-bromine baths, rising temperature hip bath, salt bath, saltwater baths, sauna, sauna bathing, shower, siliceous baths, sitz bath, soaked towel, spa treatment, specialized bathing systems, Stanger bath therapy, steam bath, sulfide mud, temperature-based treatment, therapeutic bath in mineral water, thermal spring water, thermal therapy, thermomineral institution, Turkish bath, walking in water, warm saltwater immersion, warm sulfur water immersion, warm tap water immersion, water bath, water birth, water immersion, water mineral bath, Watsu®, whirlpool, whirlpool bath, wraps.
  • Note: This review does not include in-depth discussions of therapies that may include the use of water as a part of the technique, such as colonic irrigation, enemas, nasal irrigation, physical therapy in pools, steam inhalation, humidifiers, drinking of mineral water or "enriched" water, coffee infusions, aquatic yoga, aquatic massage (including Watsu®), aromatherapy, or baths with added essential oils.

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • Hydrotherapy is an ancient modality used across cultures, owing its origins to people's historic enjoyment of natural hot springs, warm sulfur springs, and warm saltwater bathing. It is the therapeutic use of water in all its various forms: liquid, ice, and steam. It may include immersion in a bath or body of water (such as the ocean or a pool), use of water jets, douches, application of wet towels to the skin, or water birth. These approaches have been used for the relief of various diseases and injuries, or for general well-being. Examples of hydrotherapy types or techniques include sitz baths, arm baths, foot baths, rising temperature hip baths, cold rubbings, douches, steam baths/saunas, wraps, motion-based hydrotherapy, mineral baths, Dead Sea balneotherapy, and water birth.
  • Some therapies include the use of water as only one aspect of the technique. These include nasal irrigation, colonic irrigation or enema, physical therapy in pools (physical therapy or exercise in water makes use of the ability to float and resistance of water against motion), drinking of mineral water or "enriched" water, steam inhalation or humidifiers, coffee infusions, aromatherapyor baths with added essential oils, water yoga, and water massage (including Watsu®, a form of bodywork conducted in pools).
  • Modern hydrotherapy may be traced to the development of "water cure" spas in 19th-Century Europe. Early evidence suggests that regular use of hot whirlpool baths with massaging jets may reduce the duration and severity of low back pain. It is thought to work by exploiting the body's reactions to hot and cold stimuli, and in some techniques, the alternation of the two. However, conclusive evidence for this condition is lacking, and additional research is required.
  • There is wide variation in the efficacy of hydrotherapy, depending on the techniques used and conditions to which it is being applied. Typical applications are to improve blood circulation, reduce pain and stiffness, stimulate digestion, stimulate the immune system, and promote detoxification through sweating and improved circulation, and in burn treatment. Further researchf is required in all fields before conclusions may be drawn.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.