How Hydrotherapy can Help your Performance

Health & FitnessMedicine

  • Author Steve Hottub
  • Published December 5, 2012
  • Word count 686

Hydrotherapy can take many forms, and can include any treatment involving water, either hot or cold, even including wet wraps or steam saunas. The stimulating current of whirlpool baths are even brought to bear on sore muscles.

Hydrotherapy can take many forms, and can include any treatment involving water, either hot or cold, even including wet wraps or steam saunas. The stimulating current of whirlpool baths are even brought to bear on sore muscles.

The use of hydrotherapy is nothing new. In the Roman Empire, it was common to dunk young children in icy water to "toughen" them. Many Nordic peoples would exit their saunas to roll in the snow. And soaking in hot springs has been a popular treatment for aches and pains for generations.

Why Hydrotherapy?

Whatever the setting, the benefits of hydrotherapy have been recognized for ages, for the aged, the stressed, for athletes and health enthusiasts. The effects will vary, primarily dependent upon the temperature of the water and the nature of the ailment being treated.

Cold water treatments will cause the blood vessels to constrict. This vasoconstriction reduces the blood flow to the treated area, which can render several benefits:

  • Relief of DOMS symptoms - Delayed onset muscle soreness is typically experienced between 24 and 72 hours after a hard workout, and ice baths can bring significant relief of its symptoms.

  • Reduction of swelling and inflammation - Cold water immersion treatments can greatly reduce both inflammation and swelling, restoring range of movement and improving performance.

  • Faster flushing of lactic acid - Lactic acid buildup in muscles that have suffered microtrauma is one of the major contributors to DOMS. The faster it's flushed out of the tissues, the faster relief will come. Vasoconstriction accelerates that flushing.

  • Reduced chance of injuries - With reduced discomfort and increased range of motion, the individual can better feel his limitations and avoid overextending or straining. This can be particularly crucial for weightlifters.

Warm water treatments, on the other hand, will cause the blood vessels to dilate. This vasodilation greatly increases the blood flow to the region, which will help relax tense muscles and give immediate pain relief. This therapy is often used as a treatment for muscle spasms.

Combined treatments

Often, athletes will opt for a combination of hot and cold water therapy, in a treatment called contrast therapy. With this technique, the subject will alternate between hot and cold baths, realizing some of the benefits of both.

While there are benefits to be gained from the use of hot and cold packs and wet wraps, the heat transfer of these is less than ideal - immersion tends to achieve much better transfer, much quicker. Thus, regardless of the temperature, immersion therapy can be accomplished in a much shorter time-frame.

How Reliable is Hydrotherapy?

Very little formal research has been conducted regarding hydrotherapy, so much of the evidence is anecdotal, coming from athletes, physicians and trainers that have made use of the treatment. However, since each individual is different and will respond differently to treatment, it's necessary to test to see which treatment and duration will work best for you.

Today, many bodybuilders, weightlifters and athletes are using hydrotherapy to aid them in their training, and most are quite vocal about the benefits they've realized. Nevertheless, certain precautions should be observed.

Most physicians familiar with hydrotherapy caution against ice bath therapy for longer than 10 minutes at a time, as severe core temperature loss can be very hazardous. They also recommend that upon leaving an ice bath, the individual should take a warm bath and have a warm drink, in order to help restore normal core temperature as soon as possible.

Another precaution, for those utilizing contrast therapy, is to be very careful about moving from cold to warm water, as with numbed extremities, it's all too easy to inadvertently scald yourself without realizing it.

Proceed with caution, and adjust the treatments to best suit your body and its needs, and you can reap considerable benefits from hydrotherapy. Then, share your results with others, to help them determine the best course of treatment for themselves.

Ice therapy has been in use for nearly as long as ice has been readily available. As techniques and tools for cryotherapy improve more people are benefiting from the relief that ice therapy can bring. If you want to learn more about cryotherapy and ice baths, is ready to help.

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