Hydrotherapy treatment uses all forms of water in solid, liquid or gaseous states to have its therapeutic effects for specific conditions. Hydrotherapy has a long history in different cultures of people who believed that water has a healing power once it is used in different forms or temperatures. Today, hydrotherapy has been used with Massage Therapists , Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Spas. For example, heat often has been used post-treatment of tight fascia and chronic muscular pain. Heat in hydrotherapy is used to assist a therapist with increasing blood flow to the region which allows the therapist to reduce tightness and increase nutrients to the needed muscles. Cold has also been used more in the acute stage of an injury like strains, sprains and injuries which cause inflammation to the effected area. Often people make the mistake of not knowing what temperature should be used for what specific condition they wish to treat. First we need to understand what physiological effect each temperature has on the body and how it affects our nervous system.
Effect of heat: local heat is often used by therapists to improve blood flow to the needed region during the treatment. Heat commonly has a relaxing and comforting physiological effect.
Cold effect: cryotherapy is another term for the application of cold or ice.
When cold is applied to the local region it reduces the temperature on the skin, muscles and joints. That effect can be helpful to reduce inflammation to the region.
Cold tends to block pain transmission or have a counter effect against heat.
For example during muscle spasm, cold is often used to reduce firing the muscle spindles which are in charge of sending neuro-impulses to the muscle fibers.
In any form, when hydrotherapy is used to control the temperature on an injury, it is important to remember that too hot can be harmful to the body and it can have a negative effect like the production of blisters or make the muscle tissue sensitive. Temperature over 39 C is considered hot. Always use a layer between the skin and the thermo pack or pad. Always read the instruction of the heating agent for safety. Cold packs also have to be used carefully since ice can also cause harm or damage to the skin and the surrounding tissue. Always use a wrap on the ice pack in a towel to avoid direct contact with skin.
Whether you use heat or cold applications, you need to consult with your therapist to guide you to use different temperatures in different stages of the injury.
Massage Therapists of BC are intensely trained on hydrotherapy during their practical and theoretical schooling during their massage therapy education. In fact, hydrotherapy is part of the curriculum and includes most kinds of modality and forms of hydrotherapy and UV therapy.