Hydrotherapy (sometimes called Aquatic Physiotherapy) is the use of water (hot, cold, steam, or ice) for restoring, and maintaining, health and physical well-being.
It involves the treatment of physical disability, injury, or illness by immersion of all or part of the body in water to aid movement and rehabilitation and relieve pain. The exercise is under the supervision of a trained physiotherapist.
Treatments include steam baths, saunas, hot and cold compresses and exercise in a hydrotherapy pool. A hydrotherapy pool is a swimming pool specifically designed for providing physiotherapy treatments. The water temperature in the pool is heated to approximately 33–36ºC – much warmer than in a normal swimming pool. It should have easy accessibility with a hoist to lower in those who are not able to enter the pool themselves. It may vary in depth to allow for walking as well as deep water exercise.
The temperature and pressure of water used affects the therapeutic properties of the treatment. Hot water allows the patient to fully relax, promotes pain relief, encourages blood circulation and eases stiffness. It is also thought to stimulate the immune system. Cold is used to invigorate and stimulate, increasing the body’s internal activity. It can help reduce inflammation. Using hot and cold water together or alternately is a common hydrotherapy practice, said to boost hormonal function, improve circulation and activate organ function. Moving water has a massaging effect and stimulates touch receptors on the skin. When the patient is submerged in water they experience a weightlessness and buoyancy which allows greater comfort and range of movement as the water supports body weight.