What is hydrotherapy?
“Heat vs Ice?” This is a million dollar question that we are asked in the clinic everyday.
By definition, Hydrotherapy encompasses a broad range of approaches and therapeutic methods that take advantage of the physical properties of water, such as temperature and pressure, for therapeutic purposes, to stimulate blood circulation and treat the symptoms of certain diseases.
Whether you have injured yourself playing sports or have pain from overdoing it with a snow shovel or perhaps you have tendonitis or a chronic condition like arthritis; all you want is some relief from the symptoms that you are feeling. However, it can be confusing when it comes to deciding on whether you should grab the heating pad or get in a hot bath or if you should be heading to the fridge to grab your trusted bag of frozen peas.
The benefits of hydrotherapy are very diverse and are often used in homes, hospitals, long term care facilities and sport locker rooms. It can help to soothe sore or inflamed muscles and joints, improve range of motion, soothe headaches, induce relaxation, lower fevers, ease labour pain, promote tissue health and improve circulation.
But, how do we know which one to implement for our symptoms?
Ice is usually for acute injuries and calming down damaged tissues that are inflamed, red, hot and swollen. The inflammatory process is a healthy, normal, natural process … that also happens to be incredibly painful. Icing is a mild, natural or drug free way of controlling the pain of inflammation.
Hot water is chosen for its relaxing properties and it’s ability to increase circulation. It is also thought to stimulate the immune system which is why getting into a hot bath when you have a cold is a great tool. The application of heat is often our best choice when we have a chronic condition such as arthritis unless it is in an acute flare up state.
Contrast hydrotherapy, alternating hot and cold water can stimulate the circulatory system and improve the immune system. Adding herbs and essential oils to water can enhance its therapeutic value. Steam is frequently used as a carrier for essential oils that are inhaled to treat respiratory problems. This can be a very effective tool to help children breathe easier when they have a cold.
To help you further understand the benefits of hydrotherapy and when to use heat and when to use ice.