Hydrotherapy, or aquatic therapy, is any treatment that uses water to treat conditions and symptoms. It can range from physical therapy in a pool to water immersion therapy for skin healing

Hydrotherapy may seem like a new treatment, but it has actually been used for a long time in ancient cultures. And for good reason. Here we’ll explain what experts know about the health benefits of hydrotherapy. 

Different types of hydrotherapy:

There are many different types of hydrotherapy. Most commonly, hydrotherapy refers to doing exercises in a warm water pool — the water temperature is usually about 90°F to 100°F. The temperature and water source can vary, depending on the specific therapy and condition being treated. 

Some common types of hydrotherapy are:

  • Aquatic physical therapy
  • Sitz baths (shallow baths with warm water that covers your genital and rectal areas)
  • Wet saunas (uses moist heat or steam rather than dry heat)
  • Warm water baths and whirlpool spas
  • Immersion therapy (soaking part of your body in warm water — like a foot bath)
  • Water circuit therapy or contrasting hydrotherapy (therapy that alternates between hot and cool water)

How does it work?

The goals of hydrotherapy include relaxing muscles, reducing pain, and improving joint range of motion. Hydrotherapy has been around for centuries, so the benefits are numerous. 

Some of the well-studied benefits of hydrotherapy include:

  • Relief of joint pain: Water buoyancy reduces gravity and helps support your weight. Just think of how much easier it is to do a handstand in water than on the ground! Water relieves stress on all joints, which can increase movement and range of motion. 
  • Muscle relaxation: Warm water helps your muscles relax, increases blood flow, and decreases pain. This is particularly helpful when doing rehab on injured muscles.
  • Stress and anxiety reduction: Even the thought of being surrounded by warm water can be relaxing. So it’s no surprise hydrotherapy has mental health benefits. The CDC reports reduced stress and anxiety from water-based activities. 
  • Strength training: Water creates resistance that can work as a form of strength training. 

Researchers have not studied all of the potential benefits of hydrotherapy. But people have also reported the following benefits from hydrotherapy:

  • Improved skin quality in acne and other skin conditions
  • Improved arthritis symptoms
  • Decreased depressive symptoms
  • Improved circulation
  • Overall improved quality of life 
  • Decreased disability in older adults
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Reduced muscle spasms
  • Athletic recovery after workouts, including decreased soreness
  • Reduced pregnancy and labor pain
Man relaxing in a spa pool. A waterfall is off to the right side.


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