Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Hydrotherapy: A Natural Form of Pain Relief
Lily McCann is a guest blogger who has written the following article on the benefits of hydrotherapy for pain and symptom management.
By Lily McCann
For people living with debilitating illness and pain, every day can be a struggle. Hydrotherapy is a medicinal treatment with a multitude of approaches and techniques – all of which involve the use of water (hot, cold, steam or ice) as a method of reducing pain. Although the use of medicinal hydrotherapy was recorded in Ancient Green and Roman civilizations, it appeared to disappear completely until the 19th century and in the modern day, most of its effects have generally been replaced with drug treatments. It is still widely used within physiotherapy and several hydropathic establishments such as spas and wellness centres across the country.
Hydrotherapy is a therapeutic, natural method of pain relief that can be used to treat anything from muscle pain to cold and flu symptoms. Different techniques used within hydrotherapy include steam baths, underwater massage, sitz sprays, mineral baths and the alternation of pressure and temperature to improve circulation and muscular spasm. It can also be practiced in the home under the advice and guidance of a professional health care provider.
Here are a few of the ways that hydrotherapy could benefit you.
Hydrotherapy is particularly useful in treating muscle soreness/pain from a variety of conditions such as arthritis, whiplash and tendinopathy. Warm mineral baths and underwater massage can help to release endorphins within the brain that can alleviate pain and reduce tension. Improving musclar tension means reducing swelling in the joints, muscular spasms and improving motion. The warmth and support of the water also helps to promote calmness and also encourages muscle strength as body has greater resistance when submerged in water. Hydrotherapeutic jets are also a great soothing massage that will help loosen tight and painful muscles.
Circulation and Immune System
Alternating hot and cold water can speed up bodily circulation and increase blood flow as it speeds up the contractions of blood vessels. This in turn benefits the immune system because good circulation means that nourishment is carried around the body quickly, toxins are disposed of and the body’s immune system is kept healthy and working effectively to fend off anything from minor infections to dangerous diseases. Healthy blood flow also prevents lactic acid from building in the muscles and can be a great way for people who are unable to exercise to get their blood pumping.
Everyone knows that a hot bath can be the perfect way to unwind after a stressful day. When in water, the body’s buoyancy changes and the pressure of our body weight is removed in a way that is calming for the mind and body. In fact, according to Holy Cross Physiotherapy Centre, being in waist deep water reduces weight on the joints by 50%. This sense of relaxation triggers the release of chemicals and hormones such as serotonin which makes us feel happy and at peace. Stress can affect people in numerous ways and can be the starting point for other health problems such as depression, headaches, high blood pressure and sleeping disorders. Experts suggest that a hot bath of at least 15 minutes before bed can help aid a restful night’s sleep even more so than prescribed sleeping tablet.
The relaxing properties of hydrotherapy are also thought to help aid people who are trying to quit smoking, diet or generally improve their health as it promotes a relaxing sense of well being.
The use of hot/cold compresses and ice packs are a quick and easy way to reduce a number of aches and pains. Applying a cold compress to the area of pain encourages the blood beneath the surface to ‘flush away’ and become replaced by new, oxygenated blood – this is particularly helpful for backaches and headaches. Hot compresses encourage sweating which removes toxins from the body via the sweat glands – a great way to eliminate infections such as cold viruses. Ice packs can provide instant pain relief from bites, sprains and bruises by numbing the area of pain and decreasing your pain sensors as well as reducing blood flow to the area which can stop and swelling from occurring.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, there has been a definite rise in water births over the last 30 years with little evidence to suggest any higher risk of delivering a baby in water. Many women find that spending their labour and delivery in a birthing pool can help increase their energy levels, reduce stress-related hormones and ease pressure on the spine to enable the pelvis to open easier. The improved circulation associated with hydrotherapy can also ease the pain of contractions and the buoyancy of the body in water can also create more effectual uterine contractions, thus speeding labour up.
According to myhydros, many studies have proven that hydrotherapy is a successful method of treating several different medical conditions and controlling and reducing pain in a calming, natural way.