Hydrotherapy has been a therapy used by naturopathic doctors for decades. Conventional Hydrotherapy, the type of hydro you might be more familiar with, uses water treatments including cold water baths or hot showers to help improve a wide variety of symptoms for athletes after workouts or conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Naturopathic Hydrotherapy on the other hand, uses alternating applications of hot and cold water in the same treatment session. The temperature variations, duration and frequency of applications as well as location of the treatment, all affect the results of the treatment. The main goal of hydrotherapy is to control blood flow to a specific area or body-wide. This control allows us to stimulate blood flow to an area that might be deficient in blood flow or could be an area of chronic pain and trauma that requires new blood flow to stimulate repair. The hot and cold applications can be delivered using a combination of ice, botanical herbs and water. There are many variations to this rather simplistic therapy include.
-The use of linens or cloth sheets that can help support a slight raise in body temperature. This type can be extremely beneficial for inflammatory conditions.
-Saunas and steam baths can be used for relaxation of muscles as well as promote toxin elimination through the skin. This can not only help improve detoxification but can stimulate blood flow as well as enhance the immune system.
-Full or partial immersion baths can be used as well. The temperature of the bath can be either cold, hot or neutral in temperature. This type of therapy can reduce infection and relieve pain and insomnia.
There are however patients who cannot use this gentle but powerful therapy. If you are pregnant, have diabetes, Raynaud’s disease, or Multiple Sclerosis you will need to contact your naturopathic doctor prior to starting this treatment. The main reason for these contraindications is the fact that intense heat or cold for any period of time can be damaging if there is improper blood flow or nervous sensations.
So how do you perform your first hydrotherapy treatment? First off you will need to have multiple small to medium towels. You will need about 6 to 8 of them. You will need to place 3 of them in a bucket of cold iced water. Once you have placed the three towels in the ice bucket gently ring them out, so that they are still wet and cold but not drenched. Now wet three other towels with normal tap water. Ring them out and then place them in a towel warmer or microwave. Heat them until they are very warm. You may want to use gloves as these towels can become very hot. You will want to make sure the towel are warm but they are able to stay on your skin for 3-4 minutes without burning or hurting the skin, so also place the warm towel on your hand to check the temperature prior to placing it on a larger area of skin. Once you have reached your optimal towel temperature, you are now ready to begin. Start by placing a warm towel on the area you would like to stimulate blood flow. It can be around an ankle that had a recent strain or it can be on your stomach for pre-menstrual cramping.
Now keep the warm towel on your skin for 3-4 minutes, if this is too uncomfortable; shorten the amount of time of the treatment. Next, quickly switch the hot towel with a cold towel. The feeling can be cold but also very energizing. This time keep the cold towel on for 30-60 seconds. Now, congratulations you made it through your first cycle. You will now need to repeat this cycle 4 to 8 times, always remembering to end on cold!
Hydrotherapy can be a great, easy way to stimulate blood flow from the comfort of your home. I hope you enjoyed this easy but powerful therapy.