Pure Water Is the World’s Foremost Medicine: Proverb Hydrotherapy & Why You Need It
Jun 30, 2016 10:34PM
by Nancy Tegan, MAEd, LMT
I don’t know about you, but I was born with fish gills and fins. I grew up in, around and on water in Upstate, New York, and could never live in a place where a body of water wasn’t within sight distance. Now in Florida, I live surrounded by water and couldn’t be happier. Therefore, it has always been natural for me to use Hydrotherapy––the use of water for pain relief––as part of my massage treatments.
The ancients were already keen to the benefits of hydrotherapy which included the Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations. Egyptian royalty bathed with essential oils and flowers, and the Romans had communal public baths for their citizens. However, it wasn’t until Sebastian Kneipp, a Dominican monk, revived hydrotherapy during the nineteeth century that it became more widely accepted and practiced. Kneipp became known as the “Father of Hydrotherapy” and is quoted as saying, “When used appropriately, water and herbs can cure almost any disease.”
Kneipp himself was faced with pulmonary tuberculosis, a fatal disease at the time. He did full immersion dips into the icy waters of the Danube River which stimulated his immune system so much that his TB went into remission. As a result, he dedicated the rest of his life to studying the healing powers of water, plants and herbs. You may have heard of the Kneipp Hydrotherapy Institute in Germany, founded by Kneipp and a leader in Hydrotherapy research.
So, how does hydrotherapy help heal the body? This method of healing is based on mechanical and thermal effects. The body reacts to the temperature, pressure and sensation of the water. Nerves carry what is felt by the skin deeper into the body where it stimulates the immune system, influences the production of stress hormones, improves circulation and digestion and lessens the body’s sensitivity to pain.
Warm water calms the body and slows down the activity of the internal organs. Cold water stimulates and invigorates and, you guessed it, increases the activity of internal organs. This is why we love to take warm baths when stressed and cold showers to wake up the mind and body.
What types of hydrotherapy are there? Personally, I enjoy vitamin sea and take weekly doses at the local beaches. Floating in the warm gulf waters is an incredibly therapeutic experience. There are also baths, of course, along with showers, foot soaks, and hot and cold compresses.
Massage therapists often include hydrotherapy into their sessions. Warm towels placed on the neck and back can help relax tense muscles making the session more enjoyable. Foot soaks before reflexology treatments warm the feet and relax the mind. Salt glows and body wraps detoxify and exfoliate, while cold therapy on injuries can help reduce inflammation.
As we mentioned, the benefits of hydrotherapy are numerous and include detoxification, loosening tight muscles, increasing metabolic rate and aiding digestion, improving skin and muscle tone and boosting the immune system.
Now, what are you waiting for? Make a splash and take a bath! If you want to add that little “something extra” to it, add some Epsom salts and essential oils. Or, if you are feeling really keen, add candles for ambience––voila, you have your own home spa setting.
If you are interested in learning more about hydrotherapy, the East West College of Natural Medicine offers this training as part of the Massage Therapy Program (MM 32746). For more information, call 941-355-9080 or visit 3808 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Nancy Tegan, B.S., MAEd, LMT, NCBTMB, is Lead Instructor of the Massage Therapy Program.