Hydrotherapy – What is it?
Hydrotherapy is the therapeutic application of water in all its forms, liquid, vapor, or solid, to restore health; it involves the use of water for pain relief and inflammation, treating illnesses, viruses, and infections, and improving the immune system and circulation.
History of Hydrotherapy
The use of water in the treatment of disease is as old as the practice of medicine. There are many references in the Bible of water being used in healing. Records of the writings of Hippocrates indicate its use as early as 450 BC. It was used extensively in Roman baths. In more modern times, Vincent Priessnitz (1799-1851) is known as the father of hydrotherapy. When he was a young man, he received a serious injury from a farm animal. Being given no hope of recovery by the physicians, he decided to use hydrotherapy on himself, as he had previously used on farm animals. He made a rapid recovery. He established a hydrotherapy institute in Austria, and many came to study and learn his methods.
During the mid-1850, several water-cure institutes were established in this country, including Eureka Springs, home to Abundant Health Wellness Center! James Jackson (1811-1895) established an institute in Dansville, NY. He stated, “In my entire practice I have never given a dose of medicine…I have used in the treatment of my patients the following—air, food, water, sunlight, dress, exercise, sleep, rest, social influences, and mental and moral forces.” How to Treat the Sick without Medicine p. 25, 26 (Fowler and Wells, NY, 1868). Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, led by John Harvey Kellogg, soon became known as “the place to learn to stay well” and became world-renowned. Dr. Kellogg wrote The Hydrotherapy Rationale volumes 1 and 2.
Great Flu Pandemic
During the 1918-1919 Great Flu Pandemic, 50+ million people died. Over one-third of the then population of the world, 500 million, were infected. (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm). Hydrotherapy was used to restore health. “Those who received hydrotherapy and judicious nursing care survived the ordeal.” E. Qualls, P.T. Hydrotherapy. Wildwood’s College of Health Evangelism. 2014. Hydrotherapy has also been used as a treatment for our latest pandemic, COVID-19, with amazing results in restoring health. My father had oxygen levels down in the low 80’s % saturation (Normal is above 93%, and his usual level was 98-99%). With alternating moist heat and cold to the chest, it was amazing to see his oxygen level climb with each alternation of hot and cold. His health was completely restored!
How does it work?
Water has 27 times the greater capacity for conducting heat than air. For example, you can step into a refrigerator at 32°F with the skin bare and suffer little discomfort. However, step into a tub of water at 32°F, and you will feel a shock because of the much greater ability of water to conduct heat from the surface of the body. Water has great heat-conveying and tactile properties affecting the vascular, lymphatic, and respiratory (circulatory) systems, nervous, immune, and endocrine systems, as well as the muscles, metabolism, white blood cells, and other tissues and organs of the body.
Uses the body’s own defense mechanisms
Hydrotherapy treatments use the body’s own defense mechanisms to promote healing. For example, when a person steps into a cold shower, the body reacts defensively against the threat of reduced core temperature by activating and/or increasing many of its metabolic functions. When the shower is over, the person experiences an increased flow in surface blood vessels, increased muscle and tissue tone, increased function in the endocrine system, and a prolonged feeling of warmth.
Affects more than one body system
Hydrotherapy treatments affect more than one body system at the same time. Any treatment that affects the nervous system through sensory receptors in the skin will thereby affect the entire circulatory system (vascular, lymphatic, endocrine, and respiratory systems). Hot or cold treatments can redistribute blood or lymph within the circulatory system. For example, a contrast leg bath given to a person with sprained ankle can help reduce swelling (ice would be applied for the first 24 hours and alternating hot and cold thereafter).
Stimulates more than the skin
Mechanical hydrotherapy treatments stimulate not only the skin but the nerve endings, blood vessels, lymph vessels, and muscles it contains. Treatments such as salt glows, showers, whirlpool jets, percussion douches, brushing, and friction have an intensely stimulating effect that is similar to tapotement and vibration massage strokes.
Warm and cold treatments
Warm water treatment increase pulse and respiration, blood volume and vessel size (vasodilation), white/red blood cell, nervous system responses, and perspiration. Cold water treatments decrease muscle action, constrict blood vessels (vasoconstriction), congestion or inflammation of affected area(s), pulse and respiration, and pain. The effect of alternating hot and cold is that of an efficient local blood pump. Wastes are removed from the body part, and new blood and nutrients are brought in by the blood. Alternating hot and cold speeds the body’s healing ability by increasing blood flow (white and red blood cells) and nutrients to congested and/or diseased areas:
“The external application of water is one of the easiest and most satisfactory ways of regulating the circulation of the blood. A cold or cool bath is an excellent tonic. Warm baths open the pores and thus aid in the elimination of impurities. Both warm and neutral baths soothe the nerves and equalize the circulation…Many have never learned by experience the beneficial effects of the proper use of water, and they are afraid of it… There are many ways in which water can be applied to relieve pain and check disease. All should become intelligent in its use in simple home treatments.” Ministry of Healing, p. 237.
TC came to me and asked if I could help her with her shingles outbreak because she did not want to take medication for it. We began a series of hydrotherapy treatments, and after the first treatment, her pain was gone, and after her third treatment, the breakout was healed, and she has had no more residual pain.
JB was in a terrible car accident. She was badly bruised on her chest and arms. God blessed the hydrotherapy treatment, and her pain was gone. She also said her brain fogginess improved.
To learn more about hydrotherapy and how it can help you, visit https://www.abundanthealthwellnesscenter.org/.
Dana West is a Registered Dietitian, Board Certified in Lifestyle Medicine, and Hydrotherapist. She is the President of Abundant Health Wellness Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Abundant Health Wellness is a public-benefit, not-for-profit organization helping individuals embrace health and conquer disease through natural treatments and therapy. If you need help reducing pain, losing weight, or would like to discuss the possibility of reversing or naturally managing disease (such as diabetes, inflammation, auto-immune diseases, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, Lyme’s, Alpha-gal, psoriatic arthritis, etc.), schedule an appointment today at https://www.abundanthealthwellnesscenter.org/.
Featured Juliamichell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons