Hydrotherapy comes from the Greek terms ‘hydro’, meaning water, and ‘therapeia’, meaning therapy. Its first use dates back to 1500BC when Hindus used water to treat fever. Around 500BC, its use was further progressed when the Greeks and Romans used baths for health, hygiene and recreational purposes. Hydrotherapy use decreased after the fall of the Roman Empire and the use of public baths was banned. It was then re-established in the 17th century. However, it wasn’t until 1920, when the Hubbard Tank was invented, that the use of therapeutic pool exercises really took off.
Hydrotherapy is a brilliant method of treatment for those with injuries. It helps to relieve stress on the joints by decreasing joint compression forces (as there is less gravitational force doing exercises in water opposed to doing them on land). In addition to this, it helps to reduce any swelling around the injured area. It also means that any early range of movement exercises can be carried out in a supportive environment and is therefore fantastic for injuries that have affected someone’s ability to walk. Hydrotherapy helps to improve range of motion and flexibility, and the benefits can really be felt. In addition, hydrotherapy allows exercise to be undertaken without pain and has even been found to decrease pain and muscle spasm after rehabilitation sessions. It has also been found to improve balance, co-ordination and proprioception, all of which are aspects that are integral to avoiding re-injury. Through the use of hydrotherapy, patients can go back to doing land-based activities sooner, so it really does bridge the stage of being able to do very little to doing so much more.
The main benefit of hydrotherapy from my own personal practice of this method is the psychological impact it has on patients. It really does help people to feel more confident about coping with their injury and patients are less afraid of re-injury during rehabilitation sessions when they are in water.
Hydrotherapy is an extremely powerful tool that is a really beneficial treatment method, particularly soon after injury. It is widely supported by research to be a great way for people with injuries to progress quickly with land-based exercises, more so than if they just did land-based exercises on their own. It is also fantastic for arthritic conditions and is now being used to treat animals as well as humans, with phenomenal effects.
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