Holisticonline.com (rearranged and abridged)

What Is It?
Hydrotherapy is the use of water in the treatment of disease. Hydrothermal therapy additionally uses its temperature effects, as in hot baths, saunas, wraps, etc.

Follow these steps for an Effective Hydrotherapy
For overall tension reduction, use a neutral bath (temperature between 92 to 94 degree F) that is close to the skin temperature.
Use water temperature between 102 to 106 degree F for loosening tight, tense muscles and reducing the pain of stress-related conditions such as backache. (Using temperatures higher than 106 degrees is not recommended as it can raise your body temperature very fast, inducing an artificial fever.)
Take a cold shower after you step out of the bath. This brings an immediate rush of blood through your system, as well as a rush of energy. (Try alternating cold and hot shower to get a similar effect. 3 minutes of hot water followed by 30 seconds of cold water and the 3 minutes of hot water, etc.)
Stay in the bath no more than 15 to 20 minutes. If you have high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems, don't stay long enough to raise your body temperature.
Evening is the best time to soak in water. A study conducted in England found that people who took a soaking bath before going to bed slept more readily and deeply
How it works The recuperative and healing properties of hydrotherapy are based on its mechanical and/or thermal effects. It exploits the body's reaction to hot and cold stimuli, to the protracted application of heat, to pressure exerted by the water and to the sensation it gives. The nerves carry impulses felt at the skin deeper into the body, where they are instrumental in stimulating the immune system, influencing the production of stress hormones, invigorating the circulation and digestion, encouraging blood flow, and lessening pain sensitivity.

Generally, heat quiets and soothes the body, slowing down the activity of internal organs. Cold, in contrast, stimulates and invigorates, increasing internal activity. If you are experiencing tense muscles and anxiety from your stress, a hot shower or bath is in order. If you are feeling tired and stressed out, you might want to try taking a warm shower or bath followed by a short, invigorating cold shower to help stimulate your body and mind. When you submerge yourself in a bath, a pool, or a whirlpool, you experience a kind of weightlessness. Your body is relieved from the constant pull of gravity. Water also has a hydrostatic effect. It has a massage-like feeling as the water gently kneads your body. Water, in motion, stimulates touch receptors on the skin, boosting blood circulation and releasing tight muscles.

Hydrotherapy and hydrothermal therapy are chiefly used to tone up the body, to stimulate digestion, the circulation, and the immune system, and to bring relief from pain. Description of indications are given under individual method used.
Water seems to have special powers in getting rid of stress and rejuvenating our body. It affects the skin and muscles. It calms the lungs, heart, stomach, and endocrine system by stimulating nerve reflexes on the spinal cord.

Sauna and Steam Baths Saunas and steam baths are similar in effect; the decision to take one rather than the other will be guided by personal preference. In a sauna the heat acts more quickly to eliminate toxins through the skin, though some consider the moist air of a steam bath to have a more satisfying effect on the respiratory system. Saunas are deeply relaxing and are a great way to melt away stress.

A sauna is an eliminative procedure; it stimulates blood flow, increases the heart rate, has an immune-modulating effect, promotes hormone production, encourages mucosal secretions in the respiratory system, opens the airways, reduces resistance to respiration, regulates the vegetative system, relaxes, and can improve mental outlook. Children can start to take saunas at two or three years of age.

Indications: For "toning-up," for health promotion, as a way of treating pain caused by pulled back muscles, chronic rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma, unstable hypertension (stages I and 11), severely disturbed peripheral blood circulation.
Warnings: Saunas should not be taken by persons with acute rheumatoid arthritis, acute infection, active tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, acute mental disorder, inflammation of an inner organ or blood vessels, significant vascular changes in the brain or heart, circulatory problems or acute cancer.
Do not spend more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time in a sauna. Wipe your face frequently with a cold cloth to avoid overheating.

Herbal baths can be particularly soothing when you are experiencing a period of stress. There are several ways to prepare an herbal bath:

1. Simmer 1/2 cup of herbs in 1 quart of water in a covered pot for fifteen minutes. While the herbs are simmering, take a short shower to cleanse your body, then fill the tub with hot or warm water. Strain the liquid from the decoction into the bath water, and wrap the herbs in a washcloth. Soak in the tub for at least twenty minutes, using the "herbal washcloth" to rub over your body.
2. Add 1/2 cup of herbs to running bath water, preferably hot. You might want to cover the drain with a thin mesh screen to prevent the herbs from clogging the pipes. Soak in the tub for twenty to thirty minutes.
3. Fill a thin cloth bag with 1/2 cup of herbs, either placing it in the bath water or tying it to the spigot so that the hot water runs through it as it fills the tub. Again, soak for twenty to thirty minutes.

Certain herbs are quite effective for creating soothing baths. Combine a handful each of valerian, lavender, linden, chamomile, hops, and burdock root, and add it to your bath according to one of the preceding methods. Soak for thirty minutes in the tub.

Another soothing herbal bath calls for a handful each of hops, linden, valerian, chamomile, yarrow, and passionflower. Prepare this bath according to one of the preceding methods, or simmer the herbs in a quart of water, then drink 1/2cup of the liquid (with lemon and honey added, if you wish) and pour the rest in the tub.

While soaking in an herbal bath, you can read, meditate, listen to peaceful music, or just sit quietly, concentrating on relaxing yourself.

Importance of Drinking Sufficient Water It is very important that we drink sufficient amount of water in a day to make up for the water lost. The benefits of drinking water is widely recognized. Drinking pure, fresh water is essential to our health and well-being.

Our need for water increases as we grow older. As we age, our skin and mucus membranes become thinner and lose more water, and our kidneys function less efficiently. So our need for water increases. You may not feel thirsty. But you should get into the habit of drinking water, nevertheless.

Historical Perspective Hydro- and hydrothermal therapy are traditional methods of treatment that have been used for the treatment of disease and injury by many cultures, including those of ancient Rome, China, and Japan. Water therapy has been around for centuries. The ancient Greeks took therapeutic baths. Water is an important ingredient in the traditional Chinese and Native American healing systems. A Bavarian monk, Father Sebastian Kneipp helped re-popularize the therapeutic use of water in the 19th century. There are now many dozens of methods of applying hydrotherapy, including baths, saunas, douches, wraps, and packs.

Proof it works Various case reports, observational studies, and a number of controlled studies provide some evidence of success in the use of hydrotherapy.
In a study of 40 persons at University of Minnesota, 85% of the participants preferred a whirlpool bath to a still bath. Only whirlpool was effective in reducing the participants' reactivity to stress although both still and whirlpool baths were effective in reducing anxiety.

Risks, Cautions, and Contraindications Please see under individual techniques for warnings and caution for the use and follow them.Persons with impaired temperature sensation run the risk of scalding or frostbite at temperature extremes. When a condition is recurrent or persistent, please consult your physician to determine whether a physical therapy of this type is suitable in your case.

• If you have diabetes, avoid hot application to the feet or legs. Also avoid full body heating treatments, such as body wraps.
• Avoid cold application if you are diagnosed with Raynaud's disease
• Hot immersion baths and long, hot saunas are not recommended for those with diabetes or multiple sclerosis, women who are pregnant or anyone with abnormally high or low blood pressure.
• Don't take cold foot baths if you are prone to bladder or rectal irritation. People suffering from sciatica, pelvic inflammation or rheumatism in the toes or ankles should avoid cold foot baths.
• Elderly people and young children may be exhausted by too much heat and should avoid long full-body hot treatments such as immersion baths and saunas.
• If you are pregnant or have heart disease, consult a doctor before taking a sauna.

Bibliography Holisticonline.com http://www.holistic-online.com/hydrotherapy.html