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Hydrotherapy: application and effect

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 251 views

Refreshing, relaxing, healing – hydrotherapy specifically uses the beneficial effects of water. Water therapy has many applications for the treatment of acute and chronic diseases. These include, for example, hot and cold baths, with and without additives, cold showers and alternating baths. Read everything you need to know about the methods and areas of application of hydrotherapy here.

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy – also called water therapy – is one of the methods of physical therapy. The doctor Siegmund Hahn (1664-1742) founded it. Sebastian Kneipp later developed it further and integrated it into his holistic Kneipp medicine.

Hydrotherapy, by definition, uses water in all of its natural states, i.e. liquid (hot or cold), vapor and solid (ice). The therapy method has proven its worth, especially for pain relief in rheumatism and for the treatment of burns. In addition, hydrotherapy can, for example, stimulate the circulation, relax the muscles, lower blood pressure , influence the pulse rate and strengthen the immune system. Water therapy can also help with fever (in the form of a cooling bath).

Hydrotherapy is used as part of physiotherapy by doctors, naturopaths and physiotherapists. Hydrotherapeutic applications are often an essential part of medical cures.

Hydrotherapy: affusions

What are casts?

As part of the hydrotherapy, a shower with warm or cold water can be carried out. It is important that the water hits the body without pressure. To do this, therapists use a special watering hose from which the water flows with practically no pressure. Flushes are a popular hydrotherapy technique used in Kneipp medicine and should last no longer than two minutes.

When do you use casts?

In hydrotherapy, affusions are mostly used to stimulate blood circulation, relax the muscles and strengthen the immune system.

How are casts applied?

Castings are usually used as part of the treatment. Examples of important molds are:

  • Cold knee and thigh affusion: regulates blood pressure, decongests, dilates the arteries, promotes blood circulation (especially in the throat muscles), strengthens the veins, calms and promotes sleep.
  • Cold arm affusion: raises blood pressure and promotes the ability to concentrate, it also has a refreshing, invigorating and blood circulation-promoting effect.
  • Breast affusion: Cold breast affusions strengthen the body’s defences. Inflammatory respiratory diseases can be treated with warm breast affusions.
  • Cold facial affusion: for tension headaches and migraines in the initial phase as well as for facial skin with poor circulation. Promotes blood circulation, tightens the skin , refreshes and soothes.
  • Warm spinal affusion: relaxes and relieves cramps in the back muscles.
  • Hot lumbar affusion: increases blood flow in the pelvic area and prepares the lumbar spine for subsequent range of motion exercises.

Special forms are alternating affusions with alternating warm and cold water as well as flash affusions , in which the water is directed under pressure onto the body parts to be treated for a few minutes.

When are casts not suitable?

  • Cold knee and thigh affusion: unsuitable for arterial circulatory disorders in the legs, during menstruation, for painful sciatic nerves, urinary tract infections and open wounds. The thigh cast is also not recommended in the case of existing or impending functional disorders of organs in the small pelvis.
  • Cold arm affusion: not recommended for chronic rheumatism, local nerve irritation, circulatory disorders in the arms, heart disease, purulent respiratory diseases and feverish infections.
  • Breast cast: contraindicated in heart disease, febrile respiratory disease, asthma and hypertension .
  • Cold facial affusion: not to be used in eye diseases such as glaucoma , sinus infections, trigeminal neuralgia (disease of the central facial nerve).
  • Warm spinal affusion: contraindicated in acute local inflammation.
  • Hot lumbar affusion: not to be used in acute local inflammation, tumors.

Hydrotherapy: ascending and descending baths

What are ascending and descending baths?

Bath therapy (balneotherapy) is another important sub-area of ​​hydrotherapy. Full or partial baths are used. This can be done with increasing and decreasing temperatures.

With an ascending (partial) bath, you start with a low water temperature and gradually add hot water. With a descending (partial) bath it is exactly the opposite, at the beginning you bathe hot and then add more and more cold water.

When do you use ascending and descending baths?

In hydrotherapy, ascending baths are considered to stimulate blood flow and promote circulation. Descending baths can be used for functional circulatory disorders and as vascular training for venous diseases.

How are ascending and descending baths applied?

Many physiotherapeutic practices have ascending and descending baths in the treatment program. But they can also be done at home. Examples of important applications are:

  • Rising arm bath: starting temperature approx. 32 degrees. Supply hot water within 15 minutes until it reaches a maximum of 40 to 42 degrees. Recommended for angina pectoris , high blood pressure, headaches , the onset of migraine attacks, non-inflammatory rheumatism and inflammatory diseases of the upper respiratory tract.
  • Rising foot bath: It is best to soak your feet in water that is about 33 degrees warm before going to bed. Gradually increase the water temperature to a maximum of 40 degrees over a period of 20 minutes. Then dry your feet well and stay in bed for at least 20 minutes. An ascending footbath can help with complaints in the ear, nose and throat area ( sore throat , chronic side inflammation, etc.).
  • Descending foot bath: starting temperature equal to the current body temperature. Add cold water continuously (for 10-15 minutes) until the water temperature is about 10 to 15 degrees below body temperature. Then dry your feet well, put on socks and rest for at least 30 minutes. Used to treat high fever (over 39 degrees).

When are ascending and descending baths not suitable?

Speak against rising arm baths:

  • unstable angina pectoris
  • high blood pressure
  • acute inflammation
  • nervous disorders
  • vein problems in the arms

Rising foot baths should not be used with:

  • varicose veins
  • phlebitis and past venous thrombosis
  • severe arterial circulatory disorders
  • organic heart disease

Hydrotherapy: alternating baths

What are contrast baths?

In an alternating bath, you take turns bathing in hot and cold water. A distinction is made between arm, foot and seat alternating baths.

When do you use contrast baths?

Contrast baths can train the cardiovascular system and strengthen the immune system . They are used, for example, to prevent infections (particularly colds).

The arm change bath increases blood circulation in the head and can thus relieve headaches. A foot bath dilates the vessels and thereby promotes blood circulation and metabolism. The seated bath also stimulates the circulation, promotes blood flow in the abdomen and can alleviate bladder weakness.

How are alternating baths used?

All forms start with a longer (5 minutes) bath in 36 to 38 degree warm water. This is followed by a shorter bath (approx. 10 to 15 seconds) in around 15 degrees cold water. This should be repeated three times. The final step should always be a bath in cold water.

When are alternating baths not suitable?

Contrast baths should not be used in the following cases:

  • high blood pressure
  • Fever
  • open wounds
  • cancers

Hydrotherapy: Medicinal baths with supplement

What are medicinal baths with additive?

With this method of hydrotherapy, the patient bathes in warm water to which certain active ingredients are added. The range of additives is large – for example, flower extracts, herbs, bathing peat (for mud baths) or sulfur are used.

When do you use medicinal baths with additives?

Depending on the active ingredient added, a medicinal bath can relieve different symptoms. Examples of health baths include:

  • Mud lye bath : for rheumatic complaints
  • Sulfur bath : for joint rheumatism, rheumatic diseases of muscles and nerves, metabolic diseases, skin diseases and wounds that heal poorly
  • Thyme bath : for colds and coughs
  • Valerian bath : to calm down, relax and promote sleep
  • Rosemary bath : among other things, stimulates circulation
  • Hay flower bath : for nerve pain (neuralgia such as sciatic pain = sciatica) and rheumatic complaints
  • Chamomile bath : for inflammatory skin diseases, poorly healing or infected wounds, abscesses, boils, anal fissures, hemorrhoids and bedsores (pressure ulcers)
  • Lavender bath : for nervousness, sleep disorders and skin inflammation

How are medicinal baths with additives used?

Medicinal baths are individually prepared in the physiotherapy practice. The bathing time is about 20 minutes, the water temperature varies between 33 and 39 degrees.

When are medicinal baths with additives not suitable?

In general, full baths (whether with or without additives) are not recommended in the following cases:

  • febrile and infectious diseases
  • severe heart failure ( heart failure )
  • severe lack of blood flow to the heart muscle (coronary insufficiency; e.g. in coronary heart disease)
  • severe high blood pressure

In addition, specific contraindications (contraindications) apply to the individual additives. Your physiotherapist will give you comprehensive advice.

Hydrotherapy: balneophototherapy

What is balneophototherapy?

This hydrotherapy application combines the effects of water and light. The patient bathes in warm water enriched with salt and is additionally irradiated with UV light . In principle, a medicinal bath in the salty Dead Sea is simulated with its healing effect on the diseased skin.

When is balneophototherapy used?

Balneophototherapy (also called light-bath therapy) is recommended for psoriasis and neurodermatitis .

How is balneophototherapy applied?

A distinction is made between synchronous and asynchronous balneophototherapy.

  • In synchronous balneophototherapy, the patient bathes in warm water mixed with a 10% Dead Sea salt solution and is simultaneously irradiated with UVB light.
  • Asynchronous balneophototherapy means that the patient first takes a warm bath for about 20 minutes and then receives radiation. The bath is usually a foil bath. The patient is wrapped in a sheet that has previously been filled with a 25 percent saline solution.

There is also the so-called bathing PUVA : The patient first bathes in a light-sensitizing solution and is then exposed to UVA light.

When is balneophototherapy not suitable?

Balneophototherapy should not be performed on:

  • Cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure
  • serious infectious diseases
  • open wounds

Hydrotherapy procedures are usually used in conjunction with other medical therapies and medicinal treatments. You can increase their effect and thus support the healing process.

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