The Ultimate Guide to Hydrotherapy

1st Mar 2019

Posted by Sara Zuboff on

The Ultimate Guide to Hydrotherapy

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is the use of water in the treatment of different physical conditions, either at-home or with a rehabilitation practitioner like a physical therapist. But as with any modality, it’s important to understand how to safely use it in order for it to gain full therapeutic benefit. For example, in addition to knowing the therapeutic uses of hydrotherapy, you need to know the contraindications.

Originally developed to help burn patients, physical therapists discovered hydrotherapy offered their patients many benefits in addition to wound care, including:

  • Reduces pain
  • Decreases muscle spasms
  • Improves range of motion
  • Alleviates stiffness
  • Supports healthy blood circulation

Therapeutic Uses for Hydrotherapy

Since the definition of hydrotherapy means using water for therapeutic purposes, even a bathtub at home could deliver hydrotherapy. However, a bathtub is a less effective water therapy than a rehabilitation device, like a whirlpool therapy tub, which can regulate and sustain desired temperature as well as an agitator to help create beneficial currents.

Some physical conditions that can benefit from hydrotherapy include:

  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Back Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Impinged Shoulder Syndrome
  • And more…

In addition to treating symptoms from physical conditions, hydrotherapy and whirlpools in particular are gaining popularity for use by women during labor. Not only can whirlpool therapy help decrease labor pains from contractions, but the relaxing effect is also beneficial in helping the stages of labor progress naturally. Some women even safely birth in the whirlpool tub!

How Does Hydrotherapy Work?

Part of the hydrotherapy treatment is placing a targeted area (or the entire body) in water immersion, whether in a whirlpool tub or swimming pool. Depending on the desired outcome, the water will range from hot and cold. Cold tends to constrict blood vessels which is beneficial in reducing pain, while hot expands blood vessels allowing for better circulation and ultimately range of motion.

Choosing the Right Temperature for Hydrotherapy

With whirlpool tubs, therapists can choose the temperature of the water that will be most beneficial. With warm water, the whirlpool is typically set between 98-110 degrees Fahrenheit, while cold water immersion is usually used between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Contrast Hydrotherapy

However, the use of contrast therapy with both hot and cold is also beneficial. Contrast bath therapy also known as hot/cold immersion therapy, is a form of treatment where targeted area is immersed in very warm water followed by the immediate immersion of the limb or body in very cold water. This procedure is repeated several times, alternating hot and cold. The theory is that by alternating hot/cold, the lymph system is stimulated to move out stagnant fluid away from an injured area which helps the inflammation process.

Since the beginning, water therapy has been seen as a beneficial treatment for sore muscles and pain where patients are given their treatment using some sort of whirlpool. However, hydrotherapy can also improve range of motion, stamina and strength. Performing exercises in a swimming pool is a great choice for many patients who are recovering from an injury or trying to rebuild strength. Water reduces the stress on the joints which in turn reduces the stress on the body overall.

Contraindications for Hydrotherapy

There are a few instances where hydrotherapy should not be used. If a patient has any questions about whether they are a good candidate for using water-based therapy, it’s advised to speak to their physician or physical therapist. This is a partial list in which hydrotherapy is contraindicated:

  • Open wounds
  • Active infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cardiopulmonary disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis
  • History of CVA, Epilepsy
  • Heat or cold intolerance
  • Poor balance

How to Use Hydrotherapy at Home or in Rehabilitation

The first thing to do when deciding to use hydrotherapy is consider which tool or device you will use to deliver the water therapy. The most popular and easy choice is a whirlpool tub, which can sometimes be confused with a jacuzzi. Therapeutic whirlpools are different than home hot tubs because they are designed for use in therapeutic environments and have more features than an at-home jacuzzi.

Whirlpool devices offer many benefits, including:

  • Can use warm or cool water
  • Includes agitator to move water currents
  • Regulates temperature and agitation
  • Easy to clean stainless steel hydrotherapy tubs

Whirlpools can be used at home or in a rehabilitation clinic, but what sets this modality apart is not only is it therapeutically sound, but with the different options, it’s possible to pick the tub most suited to your needs:

  • Portable
  • Table-top
  • Extremity
  • Podiatry
  • Full-body immersion
  • Pediatric/Geriatric accessible
  • Eco-conscious

Cost for your hydrotherapy whirlpool will vary, but in addition to the different types of tubs available, there are different pricing options from extremely affordable to higher-end customized whirlpools which can be branded to your particular facility.

How to Buy the Perfect Therapeutic Whirlpool for Your Practice

Here are some questions to consider when purchasing a whirlpool:

  1. Where in your facility do you have space for the whirlpool?
  2. Does it need to be mobile to use in different areas?
  3. What parts of the body will be immersed (feet, limbs, full-body)?
  4. Can it be easily used by the chosen patient population (geriatric, pediatric, athletes, etc.)
  5. Is it easy to clean?
  6. What supplies does our clinic need in addition to the whirlpool?

Whirlpool therapy is a great addition to a therapeutic clinic, but it takes a bit of research and “know how” to implement. In addition to choosing the right tub, it’s important to have your staff on board with patient protocols to maintain strict hygiene standards for safe use. From additives to reduce foam to specific cleansers there is more to whirlpool therapy than just filling it with water and calling it ready.

Contact us today!

We can help you find the perfect hydrotherapy whirlpool for your clinic or personal use. Contact us today and we’ll answer any questions you may have about using water therapy! Call us today at 1-801-770-3328 for more information.