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Hydrotherapy for Wellness


When it comes to easing symptoms, whether from illness or injury, hydrotherapy is among the most effective and underused therapies available to us. Taken literally, the word "hydrotherapy" means "water cure." And a "water cure" can involve any form that water takes, including steam, liquid, and ice.


Hydrotherapy has a long and varied history. Nearly 2500 years ago Hippocrates recommended bathing in natural springs to help cure disease. Roman caregivers prescribed regular trips to the public bathhouses to aid healing and prevent disease. More recently, at the end of the nineteenth century a number of publications appeared that recommended a variety of methods of hydrotherapy to support the medical treatments prescribed by doctors of the time.

Today hydrotherapy is seen most commonly in spas, where people go to spend an afternoon in warm baths and steam rooms, perhaps a cold plunge, and enjoy a relaxing massage, body wrap or facial. Sports medicine also makes regular use of hydrotherapy to reduce inflammation in injuries and promote healing. In fact, some professional athletes bathe in ice water to halt the formation of lactic acid in their muscles to avoid muscle soreness while training.


But regular hydrotherapy can be very useful for maintaining and promoting general health and wellness.             My naturopath prescribes all of his patients an in home hydrotherapy routine to combat the flu. Very simply, take a hot shower, making the water as hot as you can stand. (Be careful not to scald yourself.) When you begin to feel overheated in the shower, turn the water to cold -- the colder the better. After 30 seconds in the cold water, turn the water back to hot and repeat the process.

After a few hot/cold cycles, get out of the shower, bundle up, and rest in bed. By alternating between hot and cold water you will shock your liver and adrenal system into action and activate your immune system, bringing you relief from whatever ails you. I have been using this method for years to relieve flu symptoms.

For children too young for showers, you can alternate between hot and cold towels on the chest. Once they have had enough, bundle them up and put them to sleep. My own children never lasted for more than three cycles before falling asleep. And always awoke feeling better. If your unsure of yourself, consult your naturopath.


Of course, most spas offer hydrotherapy and massage in a relaxed environment designed specifically to bring relief from the accumulated stresses of daily life. As a society we have long known the detrimental effects of stress on our health. Spas offer a place to relieve that stress, invigorate our immune systems, and maintain wellness.

So, if your feeling stressed or a little run down, or even if you are little banged up after your weekend basketball game, try some hydrotherapy.


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