A hydrotherapy treatment is one that uses water in any form and at any temperature as a therapeutic agent. Water may be used in its liquid form, as steam or as ice. It may be utilized directly or in the form of wraps, packs or compresses. Hydrotherapy is used in hospitals, other medical settings and homes for the treatment of a variety of physical ailments. In addition to its medical applications, hydrotherapy treatment is also used for relaxation and enjoyment.
Hot water is a hydrotherapy treatment frequently used at home to relieve sore muscles or to ease an aching back. Soaking in a tub of hot water causes blood vessels to dilate and increases circulation, which helps to relieve pain. Ice packs and iced water decrease or prevent swelling by causing blood vessels to constrict and slow circulation. Another common home hydrotherapy treatment is the use of a vaporizer to combat dry indoor air and make breathing easier during winter months.
Hydrotherapy treatment is helpful in the management of bone and joint diseases such as arthritis. Slowing the progress of these diseases by keeping joints movable and muscles flexible is of vital importance. Hydrotherapy benefits patients in several ways. Immersion in a hydrotherapy pool or a tub filled with hot water relaxes muscles and helps maintain range of motion in joints by making exercise less painful to them. The heat of the water reduces overall pain, which is soothing to the mind and the body.
Wound and burn care centers utilize warm running water to cleanse and debride burns and hard-to-treat wounds such as decubitus ulcers, or pressure sores. The water relaxes patients and imparts a sense of well being while its steady movement flushes away necrotic tissue and bacteria and reduces the chance of infection. Exercise to improve circulation is an important component of the healing process for burns and wounds, and doing physical therapy exercises in the warm water of a hydrotherapy pool makes patients more comfortable and more compliant with their programs.
People who are active in sports often rely on hydrotherapy treatment to stay in the game, whatever it may be. A favorite of many athletes, both amateur and professional, is the heated whirlpool. Whirlpool treatments relieve the aches and pains that accompany athletic performance and training. Gyms and spas that cater to serious athletes offer whirlpools for the convenience of their clients. Professional athletic teams provide whirlpools and other equipment for hydrotherapy treatment at their own facilities.