Hydrotherapy as a means of healing dates back to the early days when physiotherapy was not yet recognised as a part of medical science. At that time women used water, massage and exercise after the pattern of the baths of ancient Greece and Rome. Today hydrotherapy (called aqua therapy in some places) is a highly respected and welcome practice that uses water to relieve pain and bring about healing. Hydrotherapy may be in the form of cold or hot water, steam or ice. In a clinical setting the use of hot water as can be tolerated is used to relieve muscle spasm, increase blood flow and joint motion. Many clinics boast of pools, jacuzzis and hot tubs as part of their therapy offering.
Hydrotherapy is used successfully to ease sore muscles, relieve stress, treat burns, reduce fevers and reduce edema. Having an individual soak in a pool or steam room does a lot to reduce stiffness and prepare him/her for exercise. It also promotes a feeling of well being and relaxation.
Painful joint disorders such as arthritis respond well to hydrotherapy. In some clinics the arthritis program includes water therapy where the patient performs exercises in the water. Because of the buoyancy of the water, the patient expends less effort and can therefore accomplish more. Hot tubs use jet streams that massage the body and reduce pain. Hot water should not be used on the very young or very old.
Hydrotherapy is also beneficial in wound care. When the wound is irrigated with a wound vac or in a whirlpool, the cleansing action of the water helps remove dead tissue and brings blood to the wound, thereby promoting healing. The same applies to burns. Daily hydrotherapy is essential to cleanse the wound and uninvolved areas. The patient can also perform range-of-motion exercises under water to maintain or improve movement of the joint.
Cryotherapy, or cold treatment, is done with either cold packs or ice. Cryotherapy is helpful in cases of edema, pain and inflammation. It is the first treatment of choice for athletes who are injured. The cold water produces a constriction of blood vessels and reduces blood flow to injured tissues. Ice massage is done to small areas, for example at the insertion point of a tendon, to reduce inflammation.
As with all forms of therapy, special precautions must be taken, particularly with individuals who suffer from hypertension, diabetes or reduced sensation. Proper hygiene should also be observed as water can be a breeding ground for germs and infection. Contact us to discuss the suitability of this treatment for you.
Hydrotherapy is available from our Mt Waverley practice only.