Hydrotherapy: How to Experience the Healing Power of Water at Home

What’s more relaxing than soaking in a warm bath after a tiring day?

All throughout history and around the world, people have immersed themselves in water to feel better. And modern science proves them right. Depending on the temperature and use of water, hydrotherapy can improve several physiological functions of your body. For example, being in cold water speeds up your metabolism and improves immunity markers, while warm water decreases muscle soreness and eases pain. Steam rooms, on the other hand, support your natural detoxification and blood circulation.

The good news is: you don’t necessarily have to book a fancy spa treatment to get these benefits. With a little effort, you can turn your daily tub time into a health-boosting ritual too.

Take a look at these 5 ways to practice hydrotherapy at home. 

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Who could benefit from hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy in all its forms – water, steam, ice – is best known for its therapeutic effects on managing pain, reducing inflammation and boosting your immunity. That’s why it’s most commonly used to help musculoskeletal conditions like:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome
  • For rehabilitation post-surgery, after heart failure and for neurological conditions.

Especially doing aquatic exercises supervised by a physiotherapist can significantly improve your range of motion, balance and coordination.

But that’s not all. Hydrotherapy has many applications, all with different benefits. Simply taking a cold shower every morning, for example, increases your metabolism, stimulates the immune response and lowers your blood pressure. And we’ve all experienced how soaking in a warm both releases stress, relaxes your muscles and therefore decreases pain.

Precautions: Who should be careful of using hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy – and sudden changes in temperature specifically – may not be right for you if you suffer from:

  • Heart conditions, including high blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Uncontrolled epilepsy
  • Open wounds and/or skin infections
  • Fever
  • Pregnancy

Always consult a doctor or other medical professional before starting any new treatments or lifestyle interventions.  

Hydrotherapy: 5 Ways to Use the Healing Power of Water at Home | The Health Sessions

5 Healing Ways to Use Hydrotherapy at Home

From the Roman bath houses to the hot springs of Iceland, hydrotherapy has been used for centuries to support health. But what if you don’t have access to steam baths, whirlpools or aquatic physiotherapy right now?

Here are 5 ideas to get the benefits of hydrotherapy from the comfort of your own home.

1. Boost your body with a contrast shower

There’s nothing like a shower to wake you up in the morning – especially a cold one. Science confirms that cold showers rev up your metabolism, mental focus and energy level. But don’t worry if that sounds unappealing: a contrast shower will give you similar results.

With a contrast shower, you alternate between hot and cold water. Every few minutes, you turn the tab from hot to cold for 60 to 90 seconds. This contrast in temperature causes your body to produce more white blood cells, which strengthens your defense system. A ‘shock’ of cold water also boosts your circulatory system to send blood to vital organs and burns fat for additional fuel.

What’s more, cold exposure jolts your system into releasing noradrenaline and endorphins. It turns out that this increase of happiness hormones has a beneficial effect on people with depression and anxiety.

Not bad for a simple morning shower, right?

So if you want to boost your mood, circulation and immunity, start with your usual shower before turning off the hot water for one minute. Repeat this routine 3 to 5 times. Make sure you always end with a splash of cold water.

2. Upgrade your tub time for true relaxation

Bathing in warm water relaxes your muscles, calms your nervous system and improves your heart and lung health. And compared to showering, a warm bath results in less stress and tension-anxiety. So a warm bath is always a good idea, but with a few natural ingredients, you can turn your tub time into a hydrotherapy session.

  • Get the water temperature just right. Warm water around 100 F or 38 C degrees relaxes your body and promotes deep sleep. But when the water gets too hot, it’ll leave you drained and potentially unwell.
  • Set the scene. As fun as it is to watch your favorite series from the tub, put away your screens and other distractions to truly relax and recharge.
  • Dry brush your skin before getting in the water. This ancient health ritual helps to shed dead skin cells, boost your circulation and supports the natural detoxification of your body.
  • Soak in Epsom salt. When Epsom salt is added to bath water, it releases magnesium. This should help reduce muscle soreness, promote good sleep and soothe your skin.
  • Infuse your bath with herbs. Try this flower power sea salt to soothe sore muscles or add a springtime herbal blend to the water to support your lymphs and nourish your skin.
  • Add a drop of essential oil to your bath. Not only will it smell great, but the scent of lavender is also known to help you sleep tight at night.
  • Finished bathing? Moisturize your skin with natural products like shea butter.

For more bath recipes to upgrade your tub time, check out the beautifully illustrated Bathe from Suzanne Duckett.

Hydrotherapy: How to Experience the Healing Power of Water at Home | The Health Sessions

3. Have a steam bath to clear things up

Steam opens up your pores and nasal passages. That’s what makes a steam bath a perfect home remedy for cleansing your skin and relieving colds, sinus infections and nasal allergies.

You can practice steam inhalation by (carefully!) placing a bowl with hot water on a sturdy surface. Do make sure you cannot knock it over and burn yourself! While the water is hot, add fresh eucalyptus leaves, chamomile or essential oils of your choosing. Have a seat and drape your towel over your head and the bowl. Don’t get your face too close to the water; raise your head when you need to cool off. Steam your face for 5 to 15 minutes to clear up congestion and soothe your skin.

“Water contains healing; it is the simplest, cheapest and – if used correctly – the safest remedy.” – Sebastian Kneipp 

4. Work out in the water

Working out in water is therapeutic. Thanks to the water resistance, you build strength, fitness and flexibility without putting pressure on your joints. That’s what makes aqua aerobics a great activity for people with arthritis and other joint problems. A specialized physiotherapist can show you the best exercises for your situation, but here are some general aqua yoga poses you could try in the pool.

If a real workout in water is too much for you, don’t fret. According to the Kneipp wellness tradition, simply treading cool water no more than knee deep stimulates your immune response and circulation. Worth a try next time you visit the beach! You could also dip your toes in a nearby creek or a basin in the park.

Hydrotherapy: How to Experience the Healing Power of Water at Home | The Health Sessions

5. Soak your feet

Got sore feet and puffy ankles at the end of the day? A cool water foot-soak could help you get rid off excess fluids by boosting your circulation. On the other hand, a lavender foot soak in warm water is a great way to release stress.

For an invigorating soak, you could first rest your feet in (a bowl of) warm water. Then, quickly dip your feet in cold water for 10 seconds. If you’d like, you could repeat this contrast soak once. Warm your feet afterwards with a soft massage and/or fuzzy socks.

Have you ever tried hydrotherapy at home? What’s your favourite health ritual involving water? 

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