What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is a specialised mode of physiotherapy, which involves the use of water as a medium to provide support, resistance and other effects that can otherwise not be utilised outside the water. It can be used to treat a very wide spectrum of conditions over a wide range of patient groups. Examples are arthritis and cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation for adult patients, but also soothing and relation activities for children with Celebral Palsy (CP).

Even though hydrotherapy resembles swimming, there is a difference where the individual is required to undertake exercises in the warm water. The temperature is usually between 28 and 32ºC. This is a lot higher than in a normal swimming pool. The treatment usually takes place in a hospital’s physiotherapy department, by specially trained physiotherapist. Also other movement specialists, who have received training for working in water can administer the exercises.

What is the difference between Hydrotherapy and Aquatic Therapy?

Hydrotherapy includes all possible therapy modes that involve the use of water. This can range from completely passive floating in water, therapist induced exercises up to active exercises based on therapist instruction. Aquatic therapy does not include passive treatment of individuals in water, but includes active exercises in water based on instructions from a therapist. Therefore it can be said that Aquatic therapy is active, water based therapy. Read more about Aquatic Therapy vs Hydrotherapy.

Why is hydrotherapy good for you?

Hydrotherapy offers a lot of advantages over alternative therapies:
– Hydrotherapy offers an early start in a (muscular) re‑education program.
– Hydrotherapy offers treatments which are otherwise impossible.
– Hydrotherapy offers treatment of impairments like pain, decreased ROM, decrea­sed strength and stiffness.
– Hydrotherapy offers treatment of disabilities like change of position, holding a posture and walking.
– The combination of treatments of above mentioned impairments and disabili­ties using hydrotherapy is beyond comparison.
– Hydrotherapy automatically improves cardio‑vascular and respiratory functi­ons.
– Hydrotherapy positively influences overall as well as local metabolism. This reduces arousal, pain and stiffness.
– Hydrotherapy has therapeutic, prophylactic and cosmetic effects.
– Hydrotherapy can easily be adapted to patient‑specific needs and can simply be applied in a progressive way, from a non-weight-bearing to a full-weight-bearing programme.
– Hydrotherapy offers the possibility to handle even the very heavy patient with great ease.
– Specific hydrotherapy techniques and leisure activities can easily be combi­ned to increase compliance of the patient.
– The patient is warm throughout the session.
– The (physio-)therapist can observe the total body and check e.g. body alignment.

What are the advantages of exercising in warm water?

– Ligaments and muscles become more flexible, increasing the range of motion of joints
– Joint loading is decreased as a result of buoyancy
– Movement speeds are restricted as a result of higher density and viscosity of the water
– Pain sensation is reduced, for reasons not yet entirely understood
– Blood is moved from the extremities to the core, increasing central blood volume, increasing the efficiency of the heart

Read more about methods in hydrotherapy and aquatic therapy