Hydrotherapy for Holistic Health

Hydrotherapy is the practice of using the temperature and pressure of water to treat chronic pain and other diseases. Hydrotherapy has been practiced since the dawn of civilization. There is reference to hydrotherapy treatment in ancient Greek and Roman cultures. In more modern times, hydrotherapy has even been used to treat alcoholism. Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, reports in the book that he himself was treated with hydrotherapy.

The practice of hydrotherapy was somewhat abandoned with advent of modern medicine and drug therapy. In the beginning, drug therapy was hailed as the end all be all of medicine, especially for treating pain. Hydrotherapy was marginalized into a purely physical therapy type treatment, and few medical centers even bothered to offer it to patients. The equipment was expensive, and drugs were the new go-to treatment for pain and disease. However, the downfalls of drug therapy were soon evident. Often drug therapy had undesirable side effects.

The dangers of drug therapy for pain management are just recently becoming evident. While the danger of narcotic pain medication has always been noted, diversion, abuse and addiction are at an all-time high. Twenty-five years ago, doctors did not prescribe opioid pain medication for non-malignant chronic pain out of fear of addiction. These medications were reserved for those suffering from cancer or other terminal diseases. In the 90’s, a shift occurred in the medical community and the focus turned to improving patient quality of life. Prescription drug manufacturers spent millions on marketing and developing new drugs to treat pain. With these prescription drugs flooding the market, narcotic painkiller use and abuse began to increase exponentially.

With the new, stronger, and more easily abused narcotic painkillers available, people began to get hooked at an unprecedented rate. The number of narcotic painkiller addicted babies has tripled in the last three years, and in some states, death from prescription drug overdose is now more common than car crash fatalities.

People began to look outside drug therapy for treatment of pain. Holistic medicine was becoming more popular because of the dangers of drug therapy. With the surge of interest in holistic medicine, the practice of hydrotherapy for holistic health was revived and modernized.

Hydrotherapy treatments include saunas, steam baths, foot baths, sitz baths, and the application of cold and hot water compresses. Cold hydrotherapy for holistic health is used in situations where the practitioner wants to constrict the surface blood vessels and thus increase blood flow to internal organs. Hot hydrotherapy relaxes the muscles and stimulates the body to eliminate waste. Alternating hot and cold hydrotherapy for holistic health reduces inflammation, improves elimination, and stimulates circulation.

Proponents for hydrotherapy for holistic health claim that it stimulates endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals. This is beneficial for treating chronic pain especially, because studies have shown that people suffering from chronic pain often also suffer from depression. In fact, anti-depressants are the first line treatment for certain chronic pain conditions. Advocates for hydrotherapy for holistic health also assert that it improves immunity to disease.