Science Behind the Positive Effects of Hydrotherapy on the Body

28th March 2023

Hydrotherapy has long been used to help treat a wide range of conditions, and it is regularly used by health practitioners in the UK and around the world.

It is primarily used to aid the recovery of injuries and to reduce pain rather than as a cure. As such, it is often used as one part of a larger treatment programme. This may include regular physiotherapy and medication.

So what are the positive effects of hydrotherapy on the body, and what does the science say?

Hydrotherapy: An Overview

Hot tub for sore muscles

Hydrotherapy, sometimes called aquatic therapy, is a type of physiotherapy where exercises are carried out in warm water.

Assistance is usually provided by a trained physiotherapist, who will devise an exercise programme. You will often work together to start with, but you may be able to carry on by yourself once afterwards in your own pool or hot tub.

It is often used to help treat various conditions, provide relaxation, and provide relief from pain and stiffness.

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The Benefits of Hydrotherapy

There are several therapeutic effects of hydrotherapy on the body. According to the Hydrotherapy Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, it can help with a wide range of conditions.

For example, warm water helps the muscles relax, easing pain and muscle spasms. The buoyancy also provides support for the body, relieving pressure on the joints and helping to increase the range of movement.

There are several low-impact exercises used in hydrotherapy. Exercising in water involves acting against resistance, which can help to improve muscle strength as well as balance and coordination.

It could even help to reduce swelling and improve circulation while helping with overall well-being and creating a sense of achievement.

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital also provides hydrotherapy for NHS patients. It calls it a therapeutic treatment that is used as a part of the rehabilitation process. It is used to reduce muscle spasm and swelling, improve relaxation and well-being, increase muscle strength and improve core stability.

Which Conditions Can Hydrotherapy Help With?

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There are several conditions that hydrotherapy can help with. This doesn’t mean it can cure them, but it can be used as part of the recovery process and to help manage pain and discomfort for various conditions including:

  • Back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Trauma
  • Stiff joints
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Neurological conditions
  • Post-surgery recovery
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

What Does the Science Say?

While it’s reassuring to know that health professionals in the NHS regularly use hydrotherapy as part of a treatment programme, you may be curious to know what the science says.

A study by an Australian physio looks at the evidence for effective hydrotherapy. Out of 17 randomised control trials, it found that two of these “achieved appraisal scores indicating high-quality evidence”, and 15 studies were found to provide “moderate quality evidence for the effectiveness of hydrotherapy”.

A scientific review concludes that hydrotherapy “produces different effects on various systems of the body” and the effects are “scientifically evidence-based”. But there is a “lack of evidence” on how hydrotherapy can improve certain diseases, and “further studies are required”.

It’s also worth considering the health benefits of swimming, many of which are related to the benefits of hydrotherapy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA suggests that “water-based exercise can help people with arthritis improve the use of their arthritic joints without worsening symptoms”.

It also states that “exercise therapy in warm water can decrease depression and improve mood”.

Be Careful of Unsubstantiated Claims

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While there are many potential benefits of hydrotherapy for the body and it is used to help people suffering from various conditions, it’s important to be careful when it comes to unsubstantiated claims.

Hydrotherapy is considered an alternative treatment. While it is provided to NHS patients, this does not mean it can actually cure anything.

For example, it does not cure any of the conditions mentioned in this guide, especially chronic diseases. Hydrotherapy should not be used to take the place of other treatments. It is primarily used for temporary relief of pain and stiffness.

There are also potential risks to be aware of. Doing the wrong type of exercise could cause additional pain or even worsen the condition. It could also pose a risk of infection following surgery.

It may not be suitable in many situations. A skin infection, a virus, a high temperature, heart problems or a kidney condition are just a few examples. That’s why it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor first.

How to Get Started with Hydrotherapy

If you are curious about hydrotherapy, the best way to get started is to speak with your doctor or physiotherapist. Find out what they recommend.

They will have a much clearer idea of any conditions that are affecting you and whether you are a suitable candidate for hydrotherapy.

Of course, many people simply find relaxing in a hot tub with warm, bubbly water to be a relaxing way to take pressure off of stiff joints and muscles, so you may want to enjoy this yourself.

If you want any exercises to help you get relief from a condition or recover from an accident, speak to a professional and get their advice.

You may also want to research further at a website like the Aquatic Therapy Association of Chartered Physiotherapists, which is a useful resource.

Can You Do Hydrotherapy in a Hot Tub?

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Many people enjoy exercising in their hot tubs at home and enjoying the buoyancy of the water, the warm temperature and the massaging jets to soothe their aches and pains.

You may want to try this yourself. However, If you have a more serious or chronic condition, always start by getting professional instruction.

You may need to do some guided exercises with a trained physiotherapist. Once you have done this, ask them for their advice. 

They may suggest that you can continue your hydrotherapy in your own hot tub, which could be a more convenient option going forward.

Hydropool Hot Tubs Offer Personalised Hydrotherapy

Call HPS on 01932 640 144 today or Book an Appointment

Try Hydrotherapy Yourself

There are several positive effects of hydrotherapy on the body, and many people enjoy using it as part of a treatment program for various conditions.

While you should always be wary of claims that hydrotherapy can cure particular conditions, it’s regularly used by health professionals as part of a treatment programme. Many physiotherapists also have found it to be effective.

Talk to your doctor or physio and ask what they recommend. If they think it could help, get a few hydrotherapy sessions and see if you can benefit from it.