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One of the first textbooks on hydrotherapy was written in 1697 by the English physician John Floyer. Since then, there have been numerous physicians and others who have become famous using various types of hydrotherapy treatments to cure people of countless illnesses. Many people have heard of John Harvey Kellog, who ran the famous Battle Creek Sanitorium in Michigan, and used many different hydrotherapy treatments, as well as massage, electrotherapy, and diet to help cure hundreds of previously “incurable” cases.
By the early 1900s, hydrotherapy was a common treatment employed by naturopathic physicians. Benedict Lust, Henry Lindlahr, and O.G. Carroll are three of the most famous naturopathic physicians who have ever lived. They combined hydrotherapy with other treatments such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, and diet therapy to help heal literally thousands of people whose conditions were originally considered incurable. Hydrotherapy was the center-point of their practices and many of the treatments that they used are still being used today.
Alternating hot and cold (contrast hydrotherapy) is a common hydrotherapy treatment. The hot application expands blood vessels, filling them with blood, and the cold application causes constriction, forcing the blood elsewhere. Hot and cold water can be applied to any part of the body that is inflamed, congested, or injured. Treatment normally consists of applying a hot cloth for 3 minutes then a cold cloth for 30 seconds, alternating 3 times in a row. The treatment can be done several times a day. The amount of time the hot and cold is applied may vary (for example 5 minutes hot, 1 minute cold) so long as the cold application is of shorter duration than the hot. It is also very important to end the treatment with the cold application. The hot application may be quite hot, but never hot enough to burn or scald.
Water works on the body reflexively. This means that when water is applied to one part of the body, other parts of the body are also stimulated by reflex action. For example, if the left foot is fractured and in a cast, an alternating hot and cold treatment can be performed on the right foot. Because of the reflexive action, the left foot will obtain the benefits of the hydrotherapy treatment even though it was done on the right foot. This principle is also used when a hot and cold treatment is applied to the feet to treat problems in the head and neck.
TYPES OF HYDROTHERAPY
Baths and showers
Baths and showers can be healthy and healing. A hot bath or shower can encourage relaxation, reduce stress and flush out toxins. Adding essential oils or herbs to the bath can enhance the therapeutic benefits. Cold baths and showers can be energizing and stimulating; a rinse of cold water after a hot shower can invigorate, boost the immune system, and improve blood flow.
Hot foot bath
A hot foot bath is the immersion of both feet and ankles in hot water for 10-30 minutes and is an excellent way to draw blood from inflamed or congested areas of the body. This form of treatment is recommended for foot and leg cramps, sore throat, cold, flu, nausea, insomnia, and chest or pelvic congestion.
Wrap the upper body in a blanket to avoid chilling. Using a large dishpan or the bathtub, immerse both feet and ankles in warm water. Keep adding hot water until it is as hot as can be tolerated. Place a cool washcloth on the forehead (keep the washcloth cool during entire treatment by wringing it out in cool water). Keep feet in the water for 10-30 minutes depending on tolerance. As the water cools, add more hot water to maintain the hot temperature. After removing the feet from the water, rinse them with cool water and dry them thoroughly.
This treatment is not recommended for patients with peripheral vascular disease (arteriosclerosis, deep vein thrombosis, Buerger’s disease), diabetes or loss of peripheral sensation.
This technique is used to increase blood flow to the feet and help reduce swelling and pain in that area. It is also used with congestion headaches as well as numerous local problems of the feet and legs.
Add hot water (105 to 110°F) to one pail. Do not exceed 120°F. The water temperature should not exceed 103°F in peripheral vascular disease or in advanced diabetes. Add cold water (45-55°F) to a separate pail. Find a comfortable place to sit. Immerse your feet and legs up to the mid-calf area. Cover yourself with a wool sheet and/or blanket. Leave feet in place for three minutes.
Then immerse your feet in the cold pail for 30 seconds. Alternate the hot / cold cylce a total of 3 times. Always finish with the cold. If you begin sweating, place a cold compress with a wash cloth on your forehead. Dry your feet and legs thoroughly when finished and if possible, rest for 30 minutes after the procedure with your feet elevated.
Warming Socks / Wet Socks Treatment aka heating compress
The heating compress is an application of a cold compress to an area that is initially cooled by the water and then warmed by the influx of blood to the area. It is an effective therapy for sore throat, cold, flu, and sinus congestion when it is administered to the throat or feet.
Make sure feet are warm and dry. If necessary, warm feet in warm water before beginning treatment. Wet a pair of white cotton socks in cold water and wring them out well. The socks should be damp but not dripping wet. Place the socks on both feet. Place wool socks (preferably 100% but no less than 80% wool) over the cotton socks and go to bed with enough blankets so that you are warm during the night. In the morning, the socks should be dry. Perform this treatment every night while congestion / illness lasts. This can be used to treat colds, headaches, sore throats, ear infections, and almost any other problem involving congestion or infection in the upper body and head. This form of treatment is not used for conditions irritated by moisture or for very weak individuals.
The 'sitting' or 'hip' bath applies the principles of hydrotherapy to stimulate circulation in the pelvic area. The usual practice is to use alternating hot and cold baths. At one time Sitz baths were used extensively in medical practice, but they are now largely ignored because of inconvenience, even though they have proven beneficial in stimulating recovery.
You will need two large plastic containers, big enough to hold your hips, buttocks, and lower abdomen comfortably, yet fit inside the bathtub or shower. Sturdy storage containers are available in a variety of sizes from retail stores. Fill one container with hot water (106-110F, 41-43C), so that when seated the water covers your navel. Fill the other with cold water (55-75F, 12-24C), perhaps slightly less full than the hot one.
Carefully ease yourself into the hot water. The water should be almost uncomfortably hot, but not to the point of scalding. Remain immersed for 2 to 5 minutes and just when it starts to get comfortable, transfer yourself to the cold bucket. Be prepared for a shock. Force yourself to sit there for 20 to 60 seconds. After this time or when it begins to feel tolerable, return to the hot container. Repeat this process at least three times. You should always begin your treatment with the hot bath and finish with the cold, drying off when completely done.
Sitz baths are useful in vaginal infections, chronic urinary tract infections, pelvic congestion, pelvic inflammatory disease, hemorrhoids, fissures, prostatitis, constipation, postpartum, improving neuralgias and insomnia. People who should not use this form of treatment include those with peripheral vascular disease (arteriosclerosis, deep vein thrombosis, Buerger’s disease), diabetes, acute bladder infections, and loss of peripheral sensation.
The constitutional hydro is a series of hot and cold towels applied to the chest and back. This treatment is more involved than other hydrotherapy treatments but is very effective for almost every condition. Naturopathic physicians use this method for promoting overall health, detoxification, digestive enhancement and immune system function. Treating yourself by this method is usually not recommended, but doing it yourself may be your only choice if no doctor is available who is familiar with the procedure. Contraindicators include acute asthma and acute bladder infections.
While lying on your back, cover the bared chest and abdomen with two thicknesses of a terrycloth towel wrung out in hot water that is not too hot to touch. Cover the entire body with a wool or Velux blanket. Leave the hot towels in place for five minutes.
Then, replace the hot towels with a single thickness of towel wrung out in cold water. Cover your body again with the same blanket. Leave this cold towel in place for 10 minutes. Do not remove this towel until it becomes warm, or 12 minutes have gone by. If the towel is not warmed within 12 minutes, remove it.
Roll over and repeat the same treatment on the back. The treatment should take about a half hour.
If you have no one to help you, try this method instead. Take a hot shower for five minutes. Get out and towel dry. Take a towel wrung out in cold water and wrap it all around the trunk of the body, from armpit to groin. Cover your entire body with wool or Velux blanket. Leave cold towel in place for at least 20 minutes, or longer, until the towel is warmed up.
|May do some good|
|Likely to help|
|Reasonably likely to cause problems|
Acute: An illness or symptom of sudden onset, which generally has a short duration.
Arteriosclerosis: A common arterial disorder. Characterized by calcified yellowish plaques, lipids, and cellular debris in the inner layers of the walls of large and medium-sized arteries.
Asthma: A lung disorder marked by attacks of breathing difficulty, wheezing, coughing, and thick mucus coming from the lungs. The episodes may be triggered by breathing foreign substances (allergens) or pollutants, infection, vigorous exercise, or emotional stress.
Chronic: Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.
Constipation: Difficult, incomplete, or infrequent evacuation of dry, hardened feces from the bowels.
Diabetes Mellitus: A disease with increased blood glucose levels due to lack or ineffectiveness of insulin. Diabetes is found in two forms; insulin-dependent diabetes (juvenile-onset) and non-insulin-dependent (adult-onset). Symptoms include increased thirst; increased urination; weight loss in spite of increased appetite; fatigue; nausea; vomiting; frequent infections including bladder, vaginal, and skin; blurred vision; impotence in men; bad breath; cessation of menses; diminished skin fullness. Other symptoms include bleeding gums; ear noise/buzzing; diarrhea; depression; confusion.
Essential Oil: Volatile terpene derivative responsible for the odor or taste of a plant.
Hemorrhoids: Varicose disorder causing painful swellings at the anus; piles.
Herbs: Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with one teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted. The high doses of single herbs suggested may be best taken as dried extracts (in capsules), although tinctures (60 drops four times per day) and teas (4 to 6 cups per day) may also be used.
Homeopathy: A system of medicine based on the belief that the cure of disease can be effected by minute doses of substances that, if given to a healthy person in large doses, would produce the same symptoms as are present in the disease being treated. Homeopathy employs natural substances in small doses to stimulate the body's reactive process to remove toxic waste and bring the body back into balance.
Immune System: A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
Naturopathy: Medical practice using herbs and other various methods to produce a healthy body state by stimulating innate defenses without the use of drugs.
Nausea: Symptoms resulting from an inclination to vomit.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: (PID) A Purulent (pus-like) vaginal discharge with fever and lower abdominal pain.
Postpartum: After childbirth.
Sitz Bath: Immersion bath.
Thrombosis: Formation of blood clots causing vascular obstruction.