Hydrotherapy uses applications of hot and cold (usually in the form of water) to various parts of the body. These fluctuations in temperature serve to stimulate the immune system and the body’s inherent healing power. An external cold application is generally used in an acute condition to decrease swelling and pain. Swelling causes pain because it compresses surrounding structures. Ice helps by causing vasoconstriction (blood vessels constrict) which rushes blood to the internal organs. This decreases the swelling in that particular area, thus leading to a decrease in pain. The ice is usually applied for about 20 minutes or until the area is numb and this process is repeated every couple of hours.
Uses for cold hydrotherapy include:
- Chronic diseases
- Poor skin tone
- Acute conditions
(i.e. strains & sprains)
- Slow digestion
- Muscle spasms and cramps
Cold hydrotherapy should not be used in the following:
- Excessive chilling
- Over bony areas
Heat is most commonly used in chronic conditions when there is no swelling present. Heat causes vasodilation (blood vessels dilating) which rushes blood to the surface. This causes an increase of blood flow to the area of concern which soothes the muscles and nerves around it. Bringing blood to the injured area also brings cells that help with healing. We don’t put heat on a new injury , otherwise the injury will have too much blood, which in turn, will cause pain and decreased movement. Heat also increases sweat which eliminates toxins and it decreases blood pressure (unless it is put over the heart area).
Uses for hot hydrotherapy include:
- Loosens tight muscles and joints
- Soothes nerves
- Heat should not be used if there is:
- High feverOpen sores
- Acute conditions
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