The term hydrotherapy, by definition, refers to the use of water in the
treatment of disease or trauma. In a broad sense, hydrotherapy includes
water treatment utilizing any of the three natural forms of water; solid,
liquid or vapor. The most common technique for hydrotherapy involves the
use of the small whirlpool tanks. These tanks permit immersion within the
agitated water of one or more extremities or the patient may sit in the
tub. Larger therapy units (e.g., a Hubbard tank), incorporating larger
whirlpools, can accommodate both a patient and a therapist. This latter
type is beneficial when passive exercise is indicated during treatment.
Dry Hydrotherapy Tables
Hydrotherapy tables are a technological advance over whirlpools and
immersion water therapy. The effects are very similar, but the patient
remains dry. The patient lies back, completely clothed, on the surface of
the table. Just under the surface is a mattress filled with heater water. A
spa pump propels the water toward the patient through three patented
hydro-jets. The pressure of the water against the patient's body provides
the massage. Each jet spins at more than 200 revolutions per minute. A
primary wave and a lighter secondary wave combine to produce a very
effective deep tissue massage to all areas of the spine simultaneously. The
therapy can be applied to nearly every part of the body simply by changing
the patient’s position on the table.
The combination of flotation, heat and massage produce the therapeutic
effects and are described below.
Water is extremely buoyant. When the body is placed on the water mattress,
there is minimal strain on the weight-bearing joints. Additionally, few if
any muscles are required to hold the body up or in position. These two
conditions combine to help the patient’s body relax resulting in an
increased physiologic response to treatment.
Water is an effective conductor of heat. As the patient is lying on the
table’s surface, heat is evenly conducted through the skin and into the
muscles and soft tissues of the body. The heat increases blood and
lymphatic circulation, increases metabolism and has a sedative effect.
The Pressure of the water on the body increases venous and lymphatic flow.
One of the effects of the resulting stimulation is increased molecular
motion in the skin that may aid the healing process.
Hydrotherapy works out trigger points in the muscles, which are localized
areas of hyperirritability that induce a cycle of spasm, pain, tension,
weakness and limited range of motion in the joints.
Hydrotherapy massage focuses on the muscular system, the fascia, the circulatory
and lymphatic systems or a combination of these body systems. Fascia is the
connective tissue that attaches organs to organs, muscles to bone (tendons)
and bones to bones (ligaments). The lymphatic system carries lymph, a clear
yellowish substance that flows throughout the body, filtering foreign
matter and removing excess fluid, protein and waste products from the
tissues and transporting them to the blood to be circulated and eliminated.
Effects of Warm Dry Hydrotherapy
The major physiologic effects of hydrotherapy can be summarized as follows:
Thermal Effects, Increase in Circulation, Increase in Mobility,
Relaxation, Analgesia, Sedation, Promotion of Tissue Healing, Relief of
Muscle Spasm, Removal of Metabolic Toxins
Relaxes capillaries and other soft tissues; relieves pain and muscle spans;
increases circulatory and metabolic rates; increases blood volume and
oxygen consumption; relieves pain of myositis and neuritis; soothes
irritated cutaneous nerves; soothes nerves of the visceral organs that are
related directly with the area of skin that is warmed; promotion of tissue
healing and repair; lessens general nervous sensibility; relaxes muscles;
dilates blood vessels; relieves fatigue.