Hydrotherapy or as it is also called, water therapy, is treatment using water to reduce pain, improve strength and tone, enhance immunity, and generally promote optimum health.  The word hydrotherapy is based on ‘hydro’ which comes from the Greek words ‘hudor or hydor’ meaning water and ‘therapeia’ meaning healing. 

There were types of hydrotherapy such as baths used in ancient times. But hydrotherapy as a more specific medical tool originated in the 1800’s with a man by the name of Vincent Priessnitz.   As a young man, Priessnitz was impacted by the way deer submerged their injured limbs in the water each day until the wounds healed.   He endured many physical injuries working on the farm over the years and with each one applied the use of water in his self treatment plan:  linen cloths steeped in cold water to wrap injured areas, drinking cold clean water daily, using water in foot baths or to make compresses.   Priessnitz opened a spa facility to treat patients with various conditions and it flourished.  By the 1900’s hydrotherapy became an important part of naturopathic medicine.  Today it has a broad range of applications in the health field.

Water has many beneficial properties.   Cold can stimulate and invigorate; very cold can reduce inflammation.  Heat can stimulate blood flow, can soothe tightness and relieve anxiety.  It is essential to health; the human body is 75% water.  It is heat conducting.  It is comfortable to the body surface.

Some types of hydrotherapy used are:

  • Bath and shower: Baths can reduce fever and relax. Showers can massage aching muscles.
  • Steam inhalation: Opens pores and detoxifies which is beneficial in skin health and respiratory conditions.
  • Hot and Cold compresses: Cold is helpful with injuries; hot is beneficial for sore muscles or useful with abscesses.
  • Body wrapping: Useful in flushing out toxins.
  • Salt scrub: Wet salt application to skin followed by rinse to exfoliate and help with certain skin disorders.
  • Wet sheet pack: Wrapping the body in wet sheet covered by several dry blankets and is done in 4 stages; quiets the general nervous system.
  • Colon hydrotherapy: Introducing gently warm water into colon area to cleanse the bowel; beneficial for improving digestion, bowel function.

Hydrotherapy is used in combination with other therapies such as physiotherapy and massage.  It is also forms part of treatment programs in chiropractic offices, sports and wellness clinics, spa facilities and dermatology clinics.

Specific Techniques


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