Water is amazing. Fresh, clean water descending from the mountains or arising from deep within the earth will always remain a symbol of purity and health. Water, as all experts will agree, is an irreplaceable component of any health program. It is the only substance that the body can use to detoxify waste from our cells. Next to the air we breathe, water is the most important thing we will ever put in our bodies.
Yet, from personal experience we all know that water is not just for cleansing. After a strenuous day, not much else can make us feel as good as soaking in a hot tub of water. The heat quiets and soothes the body while slowing down the activity of internal organs. One experiences weightlessness when being submerged in water. The body is given a break from the constant pull of gravity. Flowing water stimulates touch receptors on the skin releasing tight muscles and boosting blood circulation. The water kneads the body providing a massage like feeling.
But are there any specific conditions that the use of water can do something about? Water healing is one of the oldest, safest and cheapest methods that has been employed throughout history. Egyptians used water therapeutically as early as 2000 B.C. Natural hot water springs have been intuitively known for their health benefits since their earliest discovery. But these rudimentary uses of water have become much more sophisticated as time has progressed. Today spas use water in a multitude of ways to achieve relaxation and stress relief. Even medical centers are now turning to the use of water therapy, also known as hydrotherapy, to achieve astounding results for a variety conditions.
The healing and recuperative properties of hydrotherapy are due to its thermal and mechanical effects. It employs the body’s reaction to hot and cold stimuli. From the skin the nerves carry impulses deeper into the body. This is instrumental in lessening pain sensitivity, invigorating blood flow and circulation, increasing the production of stress hormones and stimulating the immune system.
Hydrotherapy is now used for the treatment of muscle weakness, balance disorders, diabetes and other diseases that impair circulation, cramps, PMS, arthritis, back pain, musculoskeletal injuries, and depressed immunity. However the scope of its use can extend much further to other related and unrelated conditions. The secret of hydrotherapy lies in an underlying principle, not of water, but the body. In hydrotherapy, as in other traditional forms of healing such as Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and even Homeopathy, the body is recognized to have an ability to heal itself. As such, treatment methods are used to elicit a healing response by the body.
In a two week pilot study, fourteen patients with ankylosing spondylitus, a disease where the spine becomes very stiff, were treated using hot water mineral baths. A significant improvement was found in finger to floor distance, morning stiffness and over all well-being was noted in the patients by physicians. A significant reduction in the use of analgesics was also noted. These improvements began after one week of treatment and was still present after three months.
Below are a few ways to use hydrotherapy in your own home with their benefits. The methods are safe, cheap, and very effective for their specific condition.
Basic Mineral Bath Salts
The luxurious delight of aromatic bathing can help a person at every level, mind, body and spirit. The benefits of a mineral salt bath are as follows:
▪ Sea salts help remove toxic substances from the body and cleanse the whole system
▪ Minerals contained in sea salt help strengthen the immune system.
▪ Trace minerals soften the water and gently cleanse the skin
▪ The body eliminates wastes from the system through the lungs, bowels, bladder and skin
▪ A salt bath draws impurities out through the skin by osmotic pressure
▪ Adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil can also increase the therapeutic effect of the bath:
o Thyme – is very soothing and can relieve lung congestion
o Lavender – is also very soothing and will help to relax and calm
o Valerian – is good to use before bedtime. It is very calming and promotes sleep
o Eucalyptus – is more stimulating and should not be used before bed. It can help clear congestion of the nasal passages and relieve sore muscles.
o Sage – soothes sore throat and an clears sinus congestion when inhaled from a hot water bath.
Water temperature has varied effects on bathers:
▪ Hot baths (100-104 F) 36-38 C helps the body eliminate toxins and muscle soreness
▪ Warm baths (90-98 F) 34-46 C are the most soothing and are best for cleansing
▪ Cold baths (under 75 F) constrict blood vessels and are used to reduce swelling.
Soak for 20 minutes in bath to gain full benefit.
Cold Socks Treatment
This is probably the most frequently prescribed hydrotherapy treatment in naturopathic offices. It is easy to do, takes very little time, and is extremely effective. Use it to treat colds, headaches, sore throats, ear infections, and almost any other problem involving congestion or infection in the upper body and head. This treatment is one that every household should know about. It is also helpful in some cases of insomnia, and can be used on a regular basis to encourage general immune stimulation.
1. It is imperative that before you begin this treatment you warm your feet first. This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful. Warming can be accomplished by soaking in warm water for five minutes.
2. Next, take a pair of cotton socks and wet the portion covering the feet with cold water. Be sure to wring the socks out so they are damp, but not dripping.
3. Place the cold socks on your feet. Cover these with thick wool socks. Go to bed, being sure to wrap up well with a warm blanket. Avoid getting chilled.
4. Please DO NOT remove socks in the middle of the night. This is a common mistake and will ruin the effectiveness of the treatment. They may still be wet in the middle of the night, but trust that they will be dry in the morning. Many patients also report that they sleep much better during the treatment.
Although this does not seem like it has anything to do with upper body congestion, it is astonishingly effective for it. The reason is because as you put the cold socks onto your feet they cause the blood vessels to constrict. When the body realizes that blood vessels are constricted and not supplying proper blood flow, it responds with dilating those blood vessels. The warm blood supplying the area leads to a warming of the feet and consequently the socks. Warmth, in turn, leads to evaporation of the moisture in the socks, which causes a temperature drop of the socks. Returning back to a cold state the pattern repeats itself all night until the socks are completely dry, many cycles of blood have come and gone from the feet promoting circulation, healing, and an immune response.
This beautifully simple treatment can be used similarly on other parts of the body to promote healing of musculoskeletal injuries.
This technique is commonly used to increase blood flow to the feet and help reduce swelling and pain in that area. It is also commonly used with congestion headaches as well as numerous local problems of the feet and legs. The concept of the treatment is again very similar the one mentioned above for the cold socks treatment.
- Two containers (such as large plastic pails)
- Sheet and/or blanket
- Cloth for compress if needed
1. Add hot water (105 to 110°F) to one of the pails. Do not exceed 120°F. Add cold water (45-55°F) to the other pail.
2. Find a comfortable place to sit. Immerse your feet and legs up to the mid-calf area. Cover yourself with a wool sheet and/or blanket. Leave feet in place for three minutes.
3. Now immerse your feet in the cold pail for 30 seconds.
4. Alternate the hot/cold cycle a total of 3 times. Always finish with the cold.
5. If you begin sweating, place a cold compress with a wash cloth on your forehead.
6. Dry your feet and legs thoroughly and completely when finished.
7. If possible, rest for 30 minutes after the procedure with your feet elevated.
Water temperature should NOT exceed 103°F in peripheral vascular disease or in advanced diabetes.