Water Therapy: What is Hot Water Therapy?

There is something almost magical about hot water, something that heals. Slipping into a warm bath reminds you to let go of mental and physical tension, to give up all the striving and activity, to just be held by the penetrating warmth.

The human race has intuitively recognised the enormous benefits of hot water. Natural hot springs, once discovered, often became sacred areas for regeneration. Many of these developed into centres for healing. As recently as the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, people flocked to sites of natural hot water spas to take “the cure”. Hoping to be cured of such diseases as tuberculosis or gout, many certainly experienced some measure of healing. Fortunately, today many of the diseases that people hoped hot water would help have been eradicated through better diet, modern hygiene, clean drinking water, immunisation programs, and drugs.

The advent of the modern bathroom has brought hot water into almost every home. It is easy to become accustomed, even blase, to the uniqueness of hot water, and forget some of its healing benefits. Hot water is more than just a convenience. Used properly, it is a powerful therapeutic tool which you can use in the convenience and privacy of your own bathroom.

What Do You Experience in Hot Water

When you first encounter hot water in the shower, the tub, or the hot tub, it takes your body a few minutes to adjust to the new temperature sensation. During these moments, you experience a temporary increase in blood pressure as the circulatory system responds to the new environment. Blood rushes to the skin, where it is warmed by the hot water.

This causes the blood vessels to expand and the blood pressure to drop back down. The rush of warmed blood then penetrates deeper into the tissue below the skin, bringing more oxygen. It also brings a soothing, relaxing sensation as the warmed blood continues to expand more vessels. Even chronically tight muscles, which are responsible for much back pain, begin to relax. That allows the free movement necessary for exercise and stretching.

At the same time that the muscles begin to relax, the nerves are soothed and pain is relieved. As the heat goes deeper, your body temperature may increase to as high as 99°F or more. The rate at which your body uses oxygen and excretes waste material increases, and so does your heart rate and respiration. This is a beneficial effect, helping your body eliminate metabolic waste products. You’ll probably begin to sweat, particularly on the face. And you’ll begin to feel good all over.

Physiological Effects of Hot Water

1. Temporarily increased blood pressure followed by decreased blood pressure.
2. Increased superficial circulation.
3. Increased blood supply to muscles.
4. General muscle relaxation, relief of muscle spasm.
5. Increased heart rate.
6. Increased blood volume.
7. Promotion of sweating and increased elimination of metabolic waste.
8. Increased metabolism with more oxygen to the tissue and increasing carbon dioxide production.
9. Increased respiration rate.
10. Stimulation of the immune system and increased antibody production.
11. Stimulation of liver chemistry and lactic acid conversion.
12. Sedation of sensory motor neurons and pain relief.

Indications for Hot Water Therapy

1. Back Pain
2. Arthritis
3. Neuralgia
4. Muscle spasm and muscle tension
5. Sprains and strains
6. Stiffness
7. Bruises and contusions

Contraindications for Hot Water Therapy

Hot water therapy is not advised when the following conditions are present. Keep in mind, too that the technique is not appropriate for infants and very young children.

1. Acute fever
2. Severe cardiac complications
3. Seizures
4. Acute bleeding, open wounds, pressure sores
5. Acute skin infections, contagious skin rashes
6. Vascular disease
7. Thermal nerve deficiency
8. Incontinence of bladder/bowel
9. Severe hydrophobia
10. Malignancy or active T.B.

Precautions Regarding Hot Water Therapy

Check with your healthcare professional if you have any of the following conditions, and would like to try hot water therapy.

1. Pregnancy
2. Acute injury
3. Loss of sensation — absent or impaired
4. Postural hypotension
5. Cardiac history
6. Diabetes
7. Obesity or physical disability
8. Impaired balance

How Hot a Bath?

Heat tolerance is one of those individual preferences, so when bathing, find what feels best for you. Don’t scald or parboil yourself! Remember that hot water has many physiological effects, and take these into account for therapeutic and safety purposes. For example hot water lowers blood pressure, so be very careful when beginning to stand up out of a bath tub or hot tub, especially if it is very hot. If you feel at all light-headed or dizzy, proceed with great caution. Sit for a while first, and let your upper body cool down out of the water.before attempting to stand up.

For your own convenience, you may want to keep a non-breakable glass of water nearby, along with a damp wash cloth. You sweat a lot in hot water, particularly on your head, so drink some water when you’re thirsty and wipe your face with the cool damp wash cloth.

For Additional Luxury

A nifty way to turn your bath into a herbal bath is to drop a bag of chamomile or mint tea into your bath water. Both will add soothing effect and feel great. They also won’t dry the skin as much as soaps, perfumes, and bubble baths.

Shower Bath And It’s Role In Diseases

Since bath tubs and shower stalls are inherently wet, slippery, and dangerous places to be in, a couple of shower safety suggestions are appropriate. Always keep both feet firmly planted on the floor of the shower and bend the knees for extra stability while doing any of the routines suggested. Traction tape on the tub floor surface and strategic grab bars will also be helpful if your particular shower seems at all risky. These investments are well worth the expense to make your bathroom more effective and safe as a therapy setting.

After any of the hot water therapy routines, please take care not to get chilled afterwards. This might undo the benefits you’ve just worked hard to achieve. The longer the time you’ve spent doing your routines, the longer the cool down time you should allow. Just keep a towel wrapped around yourself, and enjoy the tapering warmth of the steam in the room.

Two Shower Suggestions

Your health is important, and so is the health of this planet. If you’re using your shower for hot water therapy, two suggestions will improve the effectiveness of your shower and keep it ecologically sensitive. Choose your favourite.

1. Flow Restrictor

A flow restrictor device can be installed just in front of any shower head. It can be purchased at most plumbing supply or hardware stores. This device will allow you to modulate the flow of water without affecting the temperature. A long shower routine can deplete the water in your hot water heater, causing an abrupt end to your hot water therapy. An empty hot water heater may also adversely affect your popularity with other people in your household, as well as waste water.

A great way to use this flow restrictor device in your shower routine is to take a hand towel into the shower with you. Drape it across your neck and shoulders while the restricted flow of warm water soaks into it. This damp warm towel will prolong the positive effects of hot water while you do your therapy and will save water at the same time.

2. New Shower Head

The second suggestion is to purchase a new water-conserving shower head that aerates and focuses the water in a variety of ways. Many also come with an extra length of tubing or those which allow better hand held placement for localised therapy.

Pelvic Tilt

Stand with your knees bent slightly, hands at your sides. Flatten the curve of your lower back by sucking your stomach in, pressing your belly button back towards your spine, and lifting your pubis up. This is the backward tilt. (Think of the direction your stomach goes in.) Hold for six seconds.

Now relax your stomach and move your buttocks back, curving the small of your back. Your knees are still bent. This is the forward tilt. Hold for six seconds, letting the water spray on your lower back.

Repeat five more times, for a total of six repetitions.

The Full Shower Routine for Headache, Stiff Neck or Upper Back Pain

• Get in the shower and adjust the water temperature. Concentrate on relaxing and breathing deeply and evenly while the water gently showers onto the back of your neck and upper back. If you need to conserve water, wet a towel thoroughly with warm water and drape it over your back and shoulders. Or you can simply adjust your flow valve. Allow one to three minutes for the soothing benefits of hot water to begin their magic.

• Staying in the same position, begin to apply deep pressure. Make sure to apply gentle pressure to any knotty, tender, spots you locate. Continue for one to two minutes.

Begin Exercise 1, Shoulder Lifts, allowing six seconds for each hold. Release the hold slowly, letting your shoulders ease back down into the loose, low neutral position. Rest for a moment and bring them back up for six seconds. Remember to keep your head high, and “hang from the string!”

Do six repetitions of exercise, the Shoulder Circles, (three forward and three backward). Take at least 12 seconds to complete each circle.

Do six repetitions of exercise, the Head Rock. Take 12 seconds for each repetition, counting three up, three to neutral, three down, and three back to neutral for each side.

• Finish up with two 30-seconds repetitions (one to the left, and one to the right) of Stretch 1, the Head to the side. Visualise yourself relaxing and flushing the muscles of your neck.

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