Water therapies – commonly referred to as hydrotherapy, are a range of therapeutic body treatments that involve water. Some therapies involve moving and exercising in the water, and when you visit a spa, you might find that there are hydrotherapy pools and baths which have powerful water jets designed to massage your whole body for relaxation and therapeutic effects.
Historically, hydrotherapy has been popular in Europe and Asia, where some form or another of water therapy has been prescribed as part of a treatment programme. The origin of the word spa is thought to come from ‘sanitas per aquas’, which means ‘health through waters’.
When you’re visiting a spa you’ll often find that there is a whole menu of facilities and treatments that comes under the aqua-therapy, hydrotherapy or water therapy label. Sometimes these are just unsupervised ‘spa pools’ or even a steam room and Jacuzzi – but larger spas and more enlightened places use the word to describe an actual therapeutic treatment.
This relaxing form of water-based hydrotherapy massage can take place in a dedicated spa pool or in a specially designed bath. You can usually control the intensity of the water jets to increase the strength of the massage, and you’ll find that there are jets placed at different heights and areas in the bath or pool which are designed to be used on specific parts of your body.
Some spas have trained therapists who direct jets of water at you while you are in a bath, but this isn’t so common.
This isn’t hydrotherapy as such, but can often be grouped together with the water treatment services. Colon hydrotherapy is basically just an enema, where your colon is flushed out with water to eliminate build up of waste products and clear toxins.
The Kneipp System
Father Sebastian Kneipp, a 19th century Bavarian monk, believed that diseases could be cured by using hydrotherapy and devised a system of hot and cold herbal and mineral baths, all with different health benefits. If you opt for a Kneipp hydrotherapy treatment, it’s often combined with diet, exercise and spiritual practices, so you’re more likely to find this therapy system on offer where you can stay for a few days to really recharge your batteries.
A Sitz bath hydrotherapy treatment involves using two baths or occasionally tubs of water next to each other, one of which contains hot water and the other cold. When you’re ready, you either sit in or place your feet in one tub for a set period of time, and then change to the other, and the shock to the system is said to be beneficial for circulation, as well as other common complaints. Some spas offer Sitz therapy in the form of hot and cold showers or water jets but the idea is always hot water followed by cold water.
Not hydrotherapy as such, thalassotherapy uses seawater and seaweed in different spa treatments to improve skin and revitalise the body. Thalassotherapy treatments are also said to be good for the circulation.
Algae, mud and sand are often used in thalassotherapy treatments, and they are available in the form of mud baths, hydro-massage, aromatherapy, and body wraps. Thalassotherapy is popular in spas and salons across the UK, as well as Europe where spas offer complete programmes devoted to it.