What is Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy, or water therapy, is the use of water (hot, cold, steam, or ice) to promote healing of some type. Its mechanisms are very broad. Hydrotherapy can relieve a headache, sinus infection or cold related congestion, sooth aching muscles, speed up healing of muscles and joints, and lower a fever and more. Hot water has a relaxing effect and promotes the flow of blood and nutrients to the area of contact. Tepid water can also be used for stress reduction, and may be particularly relaxing in hot weather. Cold water calms inflammation. Alternating hot and cold water acts like a pump that can stimulate the circulatory system and improve the immune system.
How does hydrotherapy work?
The healing reaction one experiences using is mediated through the nervous system which in turn directly affects various blood, lymph, sebaceous glands, sweat glands as well as surrounding tissue and muscle. In treating the skin we directly influence many activities associated with healing.
Precautions and Side Effects
These treatments should not be used with anyone with decreased or compromised sensory abilities such as infants, the elderly, or diabetics, as they are at greater risk for heat and cold injuries. Do not use these treatments over areas of hemorrhage, gastric ulcers, malignancy, peripheral vascular disease or conditions aggravated by extreme cold. Those with hypertension should also consult their healthcare professional before using hot tubs or other heat hydrotherapies. Hydrotherapy on infants or children should be done on the advice of a professional. Most forms of hydrotherapy are well tolerated. There is a risk of allergic reaction (also known as contact dermatitis) for those including essential oils in their treatments. The most serious possible side effect of hydrotherapy is overheating and/or burning.
At the end of a treatment you should feel better. You should not feel chilled. If you feel worse contact your naturopathic doctor and do not repeat the treatment.
A warm to hot bath water should be used for relaxation purposes, and a tepid bath is recommended for reducing fevers. Adding salts, essential oils and herbs to the bath water can help for a variety of illnesses and minor discomforts.
- Whole herbs and flowers can be contained in a secured muslin or cheesecloth bag or even an old stocking
- Essential oils are potent so usually 5-10 drops is all you need.
- Marjoram can sooth aching muscles
- Lavender well help you distress
- Yarrow, geranium, sage and myrtle can help with hemorrhoids
- Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts can help with sore muscles and some skin conditions. Use 1-2 cups and soak for at least 20 minutes.
Steam Inhalation for Nasal & Lung Congestions
- Run the tap with very hot water with a towel covering the sink to trap in the steam
- Reach in and plug the sink and let the water rise at least half way
- Add essential oil drops in the water on the advise of a practitioner
- Place your head under the towel and breathe deeply for up to 3-5 minutes with your eyes closed
Essential oils can act as decongestants (such as peppermint and eucalyptus), or as expectorants (such as myrtle or rosemary).
COLD THROAT COMPRESS THERAPY
This treatment is for sore throats and associated hoarseness, neck pain, tense muscles, and any inflammation or infection of the throat. It is meant to be sedating, to increase blood flow to the area, to induce sweating, to relax local muscles and to provide pain relief. Please consult your doctor if your condition does not improve or you have any questions regarding this treatment.
- Cotton cloth – long enough to wrap around your neck.
- Wool flannel (wool scarf)
- Hot and cold water
- Safety pins
- Face cloth
Warm the area first with a warm face cloth for 2-3 minutes. Soak the cotton cloth in cold water and wring out well prior to application. Wrap around neck only or include ears if desired but not too tightly. Wrap wool over cotton and secure with safety pin. Leave on at least half an hour but overnight is more effective. Change compress at least every 8 hours and allow the skin to dry at least 1 hour between treatments. Chilling should not be experienced during this treatment. Keep warm either in bed or wrapped up in a blanket.
The purpose of this treatment is to stimulate a more rapid improvement in health. It can be used whenever there is a fever or febrile illness, or to ward off illness which is beginning to manifest. It is strengthening and healing to the digestive system, helps to normalize circulation, soothes the nervous system, stimulates eliminative and detoxifying processes, and stimulates the vital force. It is a subtle yet powerful treatment.
Take a hot bath or shower for 5-10 minutes. Get out and dry off. Take a large towel wrung out in cold water and wrap it around the torso, from the armpits to the groin. Cover up with a wool blanket or warm robe to avoid a chill. Leave in place 20-30 minutes. Do not remove the towel until it becomes warmed.
HOT COMPRESS THERAPY
Warm or hot compresses are used to treat abscesses and muscle aches. A warm compress is prepared in the same manner as a cold compress, except steaming water is used to wet the cloth instead of cold water. Warm compresses should be refreshed and reapplied after they cool to room temperature. Essential oils may be added to moist compresses to increase the therapeutic value of the treatment. To add oils to compresses, place five drops of the oil into the bowl of water the compress is to be soaked in. Never apply essential oils directly to a cloth, as they may irritate the skin in undiluted form.
MUSCLE STIFFNESS AND INJURIES
The method of alternating hot and hot acts like a pump to increase circulation, decrease congestion and bring nutrients to sore muscles. It can also be used to increase the healing time of injuries. Don’t use hot water during the first few days of an acute injury.
- Apply 3 minutes hot water
- Follow 30 seconds to 1 minute COLD water
- Repeat 3 minutes HOT water
- Follow 30 seconds to 1 minute COLD water
- apply water with a shower head or immerse the affected part into a tub
- use extreme temperatures to TOLERANCE
- Repeat up to three times in a row and up to three times a day
- ALWAYS end with COLD
NASAL AND SINUS IRRIGATION – NETI POT THERAPY
When done properly, water therapy can provide great relief from pain and congestion in the nasal passages and sinuses.
- Acute treatment: 3-4 times per day
- Chronic treatment: 1-2 times per day
- 1/3 tsp non-iodized salt (sea salt)
- Pinch of baking soda (preferably aluminum free)
- Luke warm or room temperature non-chlorinated water (purchase distilled, or saline, or simply boil tap water)
- Neti Pot (porcelain only)
- On advice of a practitioner you may add probiotics, herbs and/or essential oils.
- Lean over a sink with head rotated so the nostril to be irrigated is directly above the other nostril. Slowly pour about up half a cup of solution for each nostril. If it can’t flow you may need to warm it up to break down the mucous. It shouldn’t sting or be too uncomfortable. If water drops down your throat change your head position.
- Blow nose gently after irrigation
- You may use a large all-rubber ear syringe instead. Lean over sink and insert tip just inside nostril for seal. Gently squeeze and release bulb several times. Solution will run out both nostrils and perhaps mouth.
- For very small children irrigate with 10-20 drops per nostril from an eyedropper.
WARMING SOCK TREATMENT
This is a traditional treatment to ward off the common cold. The warming socks treatment is best if repeated for three nights in a row at the first signs of a cold, and also is useful for sore throat or any inflammation or infection of the throat, ear infections, headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, coughs, and sinus infections.
This treatment acts reflexively to increase circulation and decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat. It has a sedating action and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment.
You will need the following:
- 1 pair thin cotton socks
- 1 pair thick wool socks
- A towel and a warm bath or footbath
- Oregano oil and/or garlic
- Soak cotton socks in cold water. If you tend to be cold or have low vitality, try using cool water.
- Warm your feet by soaking your feet in warm water or taking a bath for at least 5-10 minutes. Dry them afterwards.
- Wring the cotton socks out thoroughly and place them on your feet.
- If you have a cold or flu you can mix 1 drop of oregano oil into a tsp of olive oil and rub it in the soles of your feet. This will absorb into your body. For infants or children you may tape a thin slice of garlic instead.
- Put thick wool socks over the cotton socks.
- Get in bed. Cover well and sleep all night with socks on, it should be relaxing and not uncomfortably cold. If you are unable to sleep because of the cold socks consider removing the socks and soaking your feet again, this time using cool rather than cold water to wet the cotton socks. Your feet and the cotton socks should be warm and dry in the morning. If your feet are cool or the cotton sock is still damp, consider increasing the length of the hot foot soak.
As an alternative or complement to warming socks try throat or chest warming compresses. Warm the throat or chest with a hot washcloth or shower. Dry the skin thoroughly and apply a thin cotton wrap (to throat) or thin cotton T-shirt (to chest) that has been soaked in cold water and wrung out thoroughly. Cover this with a wool scarf (throat) or wool sweater (chest). Go to bed. By morning, the scarf or T-shirt should be warm and dry. The same cautions for the warming socks treatment apply here.
Boyle W and Saine A. Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy. Oregon: Eclectic Medical Publications. 1995
Dr. Robert S. Lvker, SINUS SURVIVAL: The Holistic Medical Treatment for Sinusitis, Allergies, and Colds, 2000.