Everyone has experienced the comfort of a hot shower after a hard workout or stressful day, or perhaps enjoyed a warm bath to ease sore muscles. Maybe what you didn’t realize was that you were doing a form of hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is a healing modality that uses warm and/or cold water to heal or soothe the body. The warm and cold water can be used in combination with one another or alone. Hydrotherapy is fast becoming a popular treatment for healing and preventing diseases. Studies back up the effectiveness of water therapy. Even major professional sports organizations are now including hydrotherapy as a tool to heal athletes’ injuries and keep them healthy.
Some professional hydrotherapy settings have the equipment, such as stationary bikes in warm water. And places, such as hot springs, offer an intensive experience. These are not easily duplicated at home. However, there are a few water therapies that can be done at home to enhance your health.
Five-Minute Foot Refresh
Sore, tired feet can make you tense and grumpy. The reverse is also true; soothed, relaxed feet can relieve stress. This therapy is great after being on your feet all day or if you were in heels. It’s especially effective if you get home tired and need some energy because you have to go out again. This treatment takes about 5 minutes. Afterward, your feet will let you know how happy they are that you took this small amount of time to help them.
Process: Sit on the edge of a tub with feet inside; scrub the bottom and tops of your feet with a natural fiber brush. If you don’t have a brush, use a scrunched dry washcloth. Also, scrub the tops of the feet and around the toes. Run as much warm water as you can tolerate over your feet. Let the water run over one foot, then the other. Do this for about two minutes. Now turn on the cold water and do the same as you did with the warm water. Repeat if necessary. To save water, you can fill the tub with enough water to cover your feet. Afterward, dry your feet giving them a bit of a massage and apply some lotion or oil.
Shower the Blues Away
Just the thought of turning on the cold water in a shower may give you shivers. However, if you have done it, you may have noticed how invigorated you felt afterward. Research shows cold-water showers may be beneficial for helping with depression and other mental health illnesses. Cold water on the body constricts surface blood vessels sending warm blood to the body’s core. The process brings fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients to the brain. Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine promote the benefits of cold water for good health.
Process: If you have never done a cold shower, it is a practice best done gradually. After showering with warm water, change the water temperature to lukewarm water. Once your body adjusts to the lukewarm water gradually turn the water to a cooler setting. Repeat the process of gradually cooling the water and allowing the body to adjust until you get to a temperature you are comfortable standing under to shower.
It may take a few showers to become adjusted to cold water, or you may only be able to do a cool water shower. If graduating to an all cold shower doesn’t work for you, finish off your warm showers with cool/cold water. You will still receive some benefits. Alternating between very warm shower and cool or cold water is also good for sore muscles and headaches.
Soak the Tension Away
Stress and sore muscles both share the element of tension. Stress can even contribute to sore, tight muscles. And sore muscles whether from work or exercise can cause stress in the body and mind. In other words, they are interrelated. So, what is beneficial for one is beneficial for the other.
Soaking in very warm to hot water is an ancient practice. Mineral hot springs are popular not just for the wonder of nature; the combination of minerals and very warm water melt away aches and pain. While you may not be able to pop into a hot spring when you want, you can bring some of the same benefits to your tub.
Process: Epsom salts are one of the best muscle relaxers you can add to a tub of water. Baking soda is alkaline and helps to remove toxins and soothe the skin. Lavender and peppermint essential are known to reduce tension and lift spirits. Add them to the mix and you have the perfect combination for an “ah” moment.
Mix 1½ cups of Epsom salts with ½ cup of baking soda. Add 10 drops each of lavender and peppermint essential oil; mix thoroughly. Pour under warm running water. You may need to stir the water to help dissolve the salts. Eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemongrass essential oils are beneficial for relieving muscle and joint pain. Geranium, orange, and grapefruit essential oils are good uplifting the spirit.
Please note: Never add essential oils directly to the water. Like all oils, they do not mix with water. So, the oil drops will have direct contact with the skin and could burn, such as with peppermint essential oil. Always mix essential oils with a form of bath salts or carrier oils, such as almond. As with all oils, be careful of slippery surfaces.
Steam for Brighter Complexion
Maybe you have noticed your face becoming dull and fine lines showing. Or maybe, your skin is prone to pimples, and you want to heal or reduce their frequency. One of the easiest and best treatments for all skin types is steaming. The face receives fresh blood filled with nutrients and oxygen after a steam, bringing vitality to the face. Steaming is also comforting and can help open blocked sinuses.
Process: Facial steamers can be purchased but are not necessary. Be sure your face is cleaned and free of any makeup or products. You will need a large towel and pan. Fill a medium size pan halfway with water and heat it until right before it boils. Be very careful with the hot water. Bring it to a table or somewhere it can sit safely and where you can easily put your head over it. Tent the towel over your head as you lean over the water. Adjust the distance from your face to the water so it doesn’t burn. Steam for 4 or 5 minutes. If the steam becomes too intense, take a break from it by removing the towel.
A steam is a good time to extract pimples if you have an extractor or know how to extract properly. Once you are done steaming, rinse your face multiple times with cool water and add moisturizer. Lavender essential oil may be added to the hot water. Lavender is calming.
Using water therapy at home is an effective treatment for maintaining a healthy body and can also assist the healing process of many conditions. If the only result is a more relaxed self that in of itself is very beneficial.
Bongiorno, Peter ND, Lac. A Cold Splash–Hydrotherapy for Depression and Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inner-source/201407/cold-splash-hydrotherapy-depression-and-anxiety.
Mooventhan, A. and Nivethetha, L. Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/.