Hydrotherapy For Chronic Pain
Hydrotherapy is a complimentary therapy used in physical as well as occupational therapy for the reduction of pain and for the gradual increase of range of motion of injured or diseased muscles and joints. It is commonly conducted in a hospital setting with a pool or tub where the water is heated to between 33-36 degrees Celsius.
It isn’t the same as a spa treatment although spa treatments often use heated water in shallow pools. Some spas provide Jacuzzis with pressurized water massaging the body. In spas, the water is mineralized, as it is believed that the mineral content of the water improves skin conditions and blood circulation, thus increasing the feeling of relaxation and well-being. This is not the same as hydrotherapy.
Hydrotherapy involves not only spending time dipping in really hot water, but, also doing exercises while in the water. There are hydrotherapy classes where people who are recovering from injury or people living with painful conditions such as arthritis work together to do exercises to increase range of motion in joints and muscles. Some hydrotherapy classes are individualized where physiotherapists and occupational therapists assist the patient.
How Hydrotherapy Works
• First, the heated water helps muscles relax and it reduces inflammation. It soothes and relieves tension in the muscles and thus, reduces pain. It helps muscles become more agile and more supple so it helps in achieving flexibility and agility.
• Second, the water aids buoyancy – water helps us float so there is less stress and pressure on what may already be painful joints and muscles. For individuals suffering from osteoarthritis, being in heated water allows them to put weight on the joints — but not too much weight so as to aggravate the pain they feel.
• Third, water provides resistance. Muscles work harder when the exercises are done while submerged or half-submerged in water. It is more difficult to keep a leg from floating while in waist-deep water because the water exerts pressure on the leg, lifting it up and it floats. Children and adults suffering from paralysis, hemiparesis, and even polio often undergo hydrotherapy. Exercising while in the water makes the muscles and joints work harder and get stronger.
• Fourth, a workout in the heated pool just makes you feel better afterward. It makes you feel sleepy so you can rest and relax after a therapy session.
A Great Option for Chronic Pain
Hydrotherapy is also a complimentary therapy for chronic pain. There was a time when people thought that the best remedy for pain was to immobilize the painful muscle or joint and keep it immobilized so as to lessen the pain.
Now, scientific and medical studies have shown that mild to moderate activity that stretches the muscles and move the joints actually help reduce inflammation, promote healing and reduce the perception of pain.
The theory is that when muscles and joints move, oxygen and nutrients are delivered, thereby aiding the muscles to regain strength. What better way to stretch limbs and move joints than exercises in the water?
Hydrotherapy versus Aqua Gymnastics and Synchronized Swimming
Hydrotherapy is not like aqua gymnastics or synchronized swimming. The exercises are tailor-designed as therapy. Thus, it cannot be undertaken without consulting a doctor, a physiotherapist, or an occupational therapist. It must also be undertaken only upon advice and recommendation of your doctor—usually after a thorough physical examination.
This is because any form of exercise can only be undertaken upon the advice of a health professional bearing in mind the specific health condition and status of the individual. Exercising, even in water, and especially in heated water, encourages sweating.
It also burns up energy in the form of sugar and carbohydrates. Staying in hot water while doing exercises may increase the heart rate and thus increase the blood pressure as well. Thus, patients with co-morbidities, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, and diabetes need a clearance from their doctor to do hydrotherapy.
There are many great alternatives to prescription medications and the traditional pain treatments that are prescribed by conventional medicine. Taking the time to investigate and consider these all-natural therapies, such as, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, herbalism, pain fighting foods and others is one of the best ways to find what will work for your pain condition.