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Hydrotherapy and Aquatic Therapy

Peer Reviewed

Hydrotherapy is simply water therapy, and it has been used for hundreds of years. Whirlpools, water spas, Roman tubs, common bathtubs, and swimming pools are examples of hydrotherapy. Many people have some form available at their home or apartment.

Use and Benefits
In a professional setting, the water temperature and agitation is varied depending on the treatment goal. Water temperature, coupled with agitation or vibration against the skin, can soothe and relax muscles.

Warmer water induces vasodilation: drawing blood into the target tissues. Increased blood flow delivers needed oxygen and nutrients, and removes cell wastes. The warmth decreases muscle spasm, relaxes tense muscles, relieves pain, and can increase range of motion.

Cold-water therapy produces vasoconstriction, which slows circulation, reducing inflammation, muscle spasm, and pain.

Water Exercise
Water is also an excellent base for exercise, providing an anti-stress environment for movement. Gentle water exercises use the water's resistance to build muscle strength and flexibility. Water exercise can benefit people who find weight-bearing exercise difficult (or painful) on dry land.

A Word of Caution
Some medical conditions can be aggravated by hydrotherapy. It is a good idea to seek the advice of a healthcare professional prior to beginning hydrotherapy at home.

Updated on: 06/09/14
Graeme Keys, PT, Dip MDT
This article was reviewed by Graeme Keys, PT, Dip MDT, COMT.
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