Hydrotherapy: What You Need to Know

 Staying Put at Home Tips for Pain ReliefIn an effort to counteract the health conditions that come with age, many seniors are turning toward treatments that have been practiced for millennia. One such method that is growing more popular is hydrotherapy, which is the use of water to relieve discomfort and improve physical well-being. This idea dates back to the ancient Greeks, who used bathing as a way to stave off illness. In this post, Staying Put at Home will review how hydrotherapy works and the potential physical benefits.

What is Hydrotherapy?

There are a few different ways that water can be used as a form of therapy. The Kneipp system, named after its founder Sebastian Kneipp, involves the use of hot and cold water on the skin. External hydrotherapy uses the immersion of the body in water or the application of water to the body. Balneotherapy (from the Latin balneum, meaning bath) is bathing in naturally occurring heated mineral water. Exercising in water is yet another form of hydrotherapy, as it relieves arthritis symptoms, increases flexibility, improves cardiovascular functions and strengthens muscles.

While hydrotherapy usually conjures images of relaxing in a pool or tub, this treatment can also include compresses, poultices and towel wraps. Steam inhalation is another form, as it can open up congested sinuses and lung passages, making it easier to breathe.

As with any kind of treatment, people have different tolerances. What works well for one person can cause pain and aches for another. Find the method of hydrotherapy that works best for you. It can be a good idea to avoid extremes when using hydrotherapy. Cold water hydrotherapy is not recommended for seniors, as it can lead to hypothermia.1 Warm water hydrotherapy should also be approached with caution, as it can lead to overheating.

How Hydrotherapy Works

Heat can be used to slow down the activity of internal organs. This causes blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow and sends blood to the skin’s surface, thereby opening the pores and relaxing the muscles. In addition, the warm water will cause the endocrine system to relax. Due to this, a person’s blood pressure will likely go down. The water’s hydrostatic effect can also feel like a massage to the bather, which reduces stress by helping the bather feel and relaxed and at ease.

Water buoyancy can also reduce a person’s weight by roughly 90 percent, depending on the person’s size and the depth of water. So, when a person is submerged in water, gravity’s effects are reduced and the person’s joints have an increased range of motion. This will make joints feel looser, helping alleviate pain from arthritis.

A bath between 97.7 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and a five minute immersion should be enough to activate the hydrotherapy benefits. But, as we said, it’s important to find a comfortable temperature that works best for the individual bather.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy’s impact on internal and external organs has been shown to be overwhelmingly positive. Just a few of the ways hydrotherapy can benefit its user include:

  • Muscle relaxation2
  • Reducing pain and inflammation from arthritis
  • Helping to induce sleep
  • Preventing headaches, as the arteries in your head will have lower blood pressure
  • Fighting infection by speeding up blood flow and the movement of your immune system’s white blood cells
  • Treating muscle injuries and relieving muscle disease by bringing blood flow to the body’s soft tissue
  • Helping diabetics control their blood sugar by increasing blood flow and maintaining glucose levels
  • Clearing out respiratory infections by relaxing swollen lung canals and air sacs, thereby helping fluids and mucus move out of the lungs
  • Potentially treating depression by alleviating stress and tension, creating a calm feeling3

The point about diabetics is especially important. It is estimated that only 1 in 3 senior diabetics has the condition under control.4 With so few being able to adequately manage their diabetes, hydrotherapy presents a possible option to improve health.

Hydrotherapy and Walk-in Bathtubs

A walk-in tub can be a great way to take advantage of the healing benefits of hydrotherapy. The water and temperature setting controls make it easy to achieve the optimal therapeutic bath. Many walk-in tubs are constructed with air and/or water jets that focus water toward your neck, back, shoulders, hips, legs and feet. This massaging sensation will relieve tension in the areas that need it most. Best of all, you can treat yourself at any time in your own home. There’s no need to spend exorbitant prices for a visit to the spa when you can enjoy the same benefits in the safety and comfort of your home.

Hydrotherapy is an effective treatment for many of the ailments that are affecting seniors and those with chronic pain. We hope that our blog post helped clarify how and why hydrotherapy is a productive option when treating a multitude of conditions.

Is there something you would like to add? Then please share with the Staying Put at Home community by posting a comment.

1. Bath Water Temperature Safety for the Elderly | Return to Text
2. Hydrotherapy Information | Return to Text
3. A Cold Splash–Hydrotherapy for Depression and Anxiety | Return to Text
4. Just 1 in 3 Seniors With Diabetes Has the Condition Under Control | Return to Text Hopes to Slow Memory Loss and Dementia

Staying Put at Home Tips for Senior HealthSean Christensen, former employee of Bliss Tubs, has not stopped thinking about how to help seniors. The current University of Southern Carolina medical student has partnered with his classmate, Robert Gereige, to establish a new website that they hope will help seniors and their caretakers slow memory loss and dementia.

Hourglass ( uses images from pop culture to reignite memories from the user’s youth. All you need to do is put in your year of birth, your hometown and your gender. The website will then give you a series of images with the prompts of “Like” and “Nope.” Clicking either will move you to the next image.

According to the website’s founders, Hourglass also allows facilitators to work with Alzheimer’s patients to customize the series of images, using photos that they know will evoke a response. Along with their colleague Regis Blanc, Christensen and Gereige have come up with an algorithm to best match the photos to a person’s age, gender and location, finding the images that will have the most potent effect.

The students hypothesize that a trip down memory lane could help seniors preserve their recollections longer. Research has shown that reminiscence therapy might be a viable method to fight dementia.1 This is demonstrated in the documentary Alive Inside, a clip of which is embedded below:

By triggering memories, seniors would be able to improve their power of recall. In doing so, dementia’s impact on the elderly could be severely weakened. This change would make it easier for seniors to continue aging at home, as they would not need to relocate to a senior living center in order to get support.

So far, Hourglass has been pilot tested on non-dementia patients in the geriatric unit at the Palmetto Health Richland. These initial tests were promising, as the patients’ anxiety levels decreased as they flipped through the images.

Hourglass was developed from the duo’s social media website TimeStash (, which used videos and photos from pop culture to stimulate users to share content. However, Hourglass focuses more on senior audiences. At this moment, the website is still developing. The pair hopes to interview more older patients to build their database and get a more comprehensive impression of what pop culture photos will provoke a response. Christensen and Gereige are also concentrating on finishing medical school.

1. Reminiscence therapy: Finding meaning in memories | Return to Text