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Hydrotherapy, or the use of water for healing purposes, has an ancient pedigree and different applications of using water can be found in many classical civilizations. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans used hot and cold water baths extensively, and many of the modern spas throughout Europe owe their origins to Roman bathing centers.
  • Similarly, the Native Americans were familiar with the use of sweat-lodges, for physical and spiritual cleansing and were proficient in various hydrotherapeutic techniques.
  • Typical treatments may include contrast bathing, using alternating baths of hot and cold water. These are usually what are termed sitz baths, a king of hip bath that immerses the lower trunk, while the feet may be placed in foot baths of contrasting temperature in order to stimulate the circulation.
  • Other forms of treatment may include high-pressure hosing with cold water, hot or cold body wraps, friction rubs, or baths with various ingredients added for extra elimination; for example, mud baths, Epsom salts baths or thalasotherapy (sea-water baths).
  • Cold body wraps are made by soaking a sheet in cold water and wrapping it around the body,  then covering this with a dry sheet and blanket. The initial cold is quickly replaced by warmth. These wraps are used for a number of conditions such as chronic muscle strains and backache.
  • The sitz baths are often recommended for conditions such as chronic constipation, congestion in the pelvic area, recurrent cystitis and period pains.
  • The sprays have similar effects to the baths, depending on their temperature, but are generally more stimulating to the circulation.
  • A milder effect is achieved by whirlpool baths, which are increasingly popular in homes, gyms and spas. Some recent medical research has shown the benefits of cold baths for reducing high blood pressure and improving peripheral circulation, and they have a strong effect on the immune system.
  • Hence hydrotherapy has very definite physiological effects. As a note of caution, prolonged exposure to very hot  and to very cold water is not a good idea for pregnant women or any one with hypertension or heart disease, so be careful with saunas, turkish baths, whirlpools and so on. Regular shorter sessions are often more beneficial.
Home applications can be very simple; a sprained ankle or similar injury with swelling needs a cold application initially, such as an ice pack or cold compress. After a while, older injuries may respond to hot, then cold applications, while chronic areas of muscular stiffness often do better with just warm water treatment.




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