Hydrotherapy Defined By a Naturopathic Doctor
What is Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is defined as the use of water to effect change in the body as a treatment of disease or trauma. It is not a new therapy, but has been around since ancient times and has been a part of many traditional medicinal systems. Hydrotherapy has been a staple of Naturopathic medicine for over two hundred years and is used to stimulate the body’s own ability to heal. In general, hydrotherapy is a very effective tool for stimulating the immune system, promoting detoxification, and increasing circulation.
At Grand Rapids Natural Health, we offer Constitutional hydrotherapy which involves the application of hot and cold compresses on the front and back of the torso to support the body’s self-healing capacity. This procedure is usually performed with the addition of mild electric stimulation to enhance the effects of healing that will soon be available at our office.
The therapeutic power of water is based upon its thermal properties, rather than the water itself. Hydrotherapy uses the body’s response to hot or cold water to stimulate an intended reaction throughout body. All though the hydrotherapy treatments are mostly applied to the external surface of the body, the effects can reach deep inside and impact the internal organs as well. Nerves carry what is felt by the skin deeper into the body, and promote a change in many bodily systems to stimulate immune function, improve circulation and digestion, and decrease the body’s sensitivity to pain.
Hot water is used to quiet and soothe the body and to decrease activity of the internal organs. Heat has an immediate stimulating vasodilatory effect, which means the vessels dilate and carry more blood to the tissues. It also stimulates metabolism, increases body temperature, sweating, and other routes of elimination. Heat decreases pain, spasms, congestion, and destroys heat sensitive organisms. After about 5 minutes, this stimulatory effect becomes sedative and the increased blood flow settles into the tissues and causes relaxation while the increased metabolic stimulation remains constant.
Cold water on the other hand, is applied to invigorate the function of the visceral organs. Cold applications increase muscle tone, oxygen absorption, and carbon dioxide excretion from tissues and red and white blood cell counts in the body. Cold produces vasoconstriction which narrows the vessels and decreases blood flow.
The contrast of the two temperatures helps initiate a cycle of carrying away metabolic waste from cells followed by an influx of nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood through the tissues and vital organs.
Benefits of constitutional hydrotherapy include:
· Reduced inflammation and chronic pain in local areas
· Increased energy level and improved sleep quality
· Strengthened immune system, specifically an increase in white blood cell count
· Improved digestion and bowel function
· Decreased stress response and relaxation
Hydrotherapy can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions such as:
· Colds, flus and respiratory conditions
· Digestive complaints
· Heart and circulatory conditions
· Hormonal imbalances
· Sleep disorders
· Anxiety, depression, fatigue and stress
· Skin disorders
· Menstrual and reproductive disorders
· Chronic pain related to injury, arthritis, headaches, etc.
· Weight management and cleansing