You can use basic hydrotherapy treatments in the form of hot and cold water and related applications to relax and heal. The benefits of hydrotherapy include improved blood flow, which increases the nutrient flow to all parts of your body and helps your body better eliminate metabolic waste products.
Although heat and cold therapy have many benefits, you do need to be cautious at times. For example, consult your doctor before using hydrotherapy, especially heat, if you are pregnant or have diabetes, a heart condition, or high blood pressure.
Avoid the use of very cold applications if you have Raynaud’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, or peripheral vascular disease, or if you are hypersensitive to cold or your skin has a reduced ability to feel. If you have diabetes, use ice cautiously only with the OK of your doctor.
Also, everyone needs to take care with heat to avoid burning and cold applications to avoid freezing. Be aware of the heat or cold and how it feels on your skin. Be especially cautious if you have sensitive skin.
For more specific information than this article provides, see Hydrotherapy Treatments for Common Ailments.
Using cold can reduce pain and swelling and help tone your body. Briefly applying cold water to your face, hands, or head can improve your mental alertness.
Use ice briefly on local inflammation, swelling, or sprains. Most people can use ice for 10 to 20 minutes on an injury, followed by 15 to 20 minutes off, but your situation may vary. For injuries, cold works best if you use it frequently during the 24 hours following the injury. Never apply ice directly to your skin; place a cloth between your skin and the ice.
Caution: See a healthcare provider for serious injuries.
A simple hot shower or bath can provide heat hydrotherapy. The heat can help relieve general soreness and stiffness, arthritis pain, muscle cramps, and menstrual cramps. For a bath, you can also use Epsom salts and essential oils to enhance the effects.
Another option is a sauna or steam bath. After your hot bath or sauna, take a quick cool shower to feel relaxed and alert.
If you have upper body congestion soaking your feet in hot water can bring relief because the heat draws blood away from your head and upper body.
Alternating hot with cold creates a vascular flush, where the heat dilates the blood vessels and the cold contracts them. This technique increases circulation, potentially providing more healing and pain relief.
Important: This technique is generally not advised for someone with a heart condition.
Options include alternating hot and cold water in the shower, taking a cold shower after a sauna, or alternating use of hot and cold towels on an area of your body.
As a general guideline, use a ratio of three to one for alternating hot and cold. That is, use three minutes of heat and one minute of cold. Use cold last to promote a refreshing feeling and to promote pain relief.