Home > Complementary Therapy > Hydrothermal Therapy: Health Benefits

Hydrothermal Therapy: Health Benefits

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 31 Dec 2014 | comments*Discuss
Hydrotherapy Hydrothermal Therapy Sitz

The benefits of hydrotherapy, or "water healing", have been utilized for centuries. As long ago as the 4th century BC., the Greek physician Hippocrates recommended bathing in spring water for its therapeutic effects, and the Romans are renowned for utilizing hydrothermal therapy, or "heated water healing", in their communal baths.

How hydrothermal therapy affects the body

Hydrothermal therapy (HT) is, of course, just as effective today. It takes advantages of the body's reactions to hot and cold temperatures, the pressure exerted upon the body by water and the soothing sensation that it gives. HT affects the body by stimulating the nerves in the surface of the skin. The nerves, in turn, carry the impulses deep inside the body where they have multiple effects including stimulating the immune system, circulation, digestion, hormone production, reducing pain and reducing stress.

Types of hydrothermal therapy

There are a number of different types of hydrothermal therapy treatments, some of which may be used in conjunction with each other:

Saunas and Steam baths

Saunas and steam baths have a very similar effect and are mainly a matter of personal choice, although the effects of a steam bath may aid respiratory ailments more effectively than a sauna. Many people mistakenly believe that a fever is a symptom of disease, when in fact; it is part of the body's natural healing response. During a fever, your immune system is stimulated, forcing the development of viruses, or bacteria to slow down. The generation of white blood cells, the body's defenders, is increased and they are released more quickly into the blood stream. The generation of antibodies speeds up. Although the artificial fever induced by sauna and steam therapy does not have exactly the effect of real fever, it still produces a remarkable effect on a number of bodily processes. The beneficial effects of a 15-20 minute sauna or steam bath include, increased blood circulation, increased elimination of toxins from the body and an increase in the amount of nutrients transported to the skin.

Sitz Bath

The aim of a sitz bath is to increase blood flow to the abdominal and pelvic regions, and the ankles and feet. Sitz baths can be given with hot or cold water, or alternated between hot and cold water.

Fill a tub with water so that it covers your hips and reaches up to your abdomen. If possible, immerse the pelvic and abdominal regions in the sitz bath water with your feet immersed in another basin with water, which is a few degrees warmer.

When using a hot sitz bath, the tub should be filled with water about 110o F. Stay in the bath for twenty to forty minutes, then take a quick cold shower or bath.

If you are taking a cold sitz bath, the tub should be filled with iced water - try to stay in the water for between 30 and 60 seconds before drying with a towel.

You can also use alternating hot and cold baths. In this case you will need two tubs, one filled with hot water (about 110o F) and a second with ice water. Take the hot bath first, and remain in the water for 3-4 minutes and then switch to cold sitz bath for 30-60 seconds. You can repeat this up to 3-4 times.

A hot sitz bath has been recommended relieving the discomfort of haemorrhoids and uterine cramps. Cold sitz baths may be useful for constipation, and vaginal infections. Alternating hot and cold sitz path may be useful for foot infections and swollen ankles.


It is best to consult your doctor before using any type of sitz bath.

Hot wraps

A wrap can be soaked in a hot herbal infusion and then placed around the area to be treated, such as the thigh, arm or ankle. The wrap should not be applied so tightly as to cause constriction. The moist cloth is then usually wrapped in a dry linen cloth, and the person receiving the therapy is then wrapped in a blanket and left to rest for between 30 and 40 minutes. If the intention is specifically to induce sweating, then the patient may be left for 2 or 3 hours. This type of therapy is beneficial for joint pain relief, (particularly when alternated with cold wraps), respiratory diseases, neuralgia, and arthritis.

Cold wraps

Cold wrap therapy is mainly used to treat fever or localized inflammation. Again a cold wrap may be soaked in a mild herbal infusion or just cold water, then wrung out and then wrapped around the part of the body to be treated.


It is recommended that you consult your physician before using extreme applications such as sitz baths, particularly if you suffer from Raynaud's disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or are pregnant.

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