Water has unique therapeutic properties. It can provide peace to our minds, healing to our bodies, and quenches our thirst. Many are invigorated by listening to the roll of the ocean waves or the gentle ebb and flow of the tide. To watch a tall cascading waterfall can be very awe inspiring. The peaceful splash of a fountain, and the gentle flow of a creek can also bring peace to a stressed mind. A nice warm shower or time spent in a Jacuzzi or sauna can provide relaxation while a cold shower invigorates. Ten 10 minutes spent in a whirlpool can increase feelings of well-being and diminish anxiety.
Liquid water, along with its other forms (ice and steam), are used to manage pain, relieve anxiety, treat disorders or promote well-being. The therapeutic use of water has a long history. Bathhouses were known in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman culture. Hippocrates prescribed bathing in spring water for sickness. Roman physicians Celsus and Galen treated patients with warm and cold baths to prevent disease. The Islamic bathhouse (Hamman) was used for cleansing, relaxation and pleasure.
In Austria in the early 19th century, Priessnitz became internationally famous for his water cure. Water treatments were also popular at Battle Creek Sanitarium during the time of John Harvey Kellogg. Water treatments are still popular today at spas and lifestyle centers, and are useful for pain management, soothing headaches, sore muscles and joints, lowering fevers, and promoting relaxation.
The use of hot water relaxes a person while cold water stimulates. Within limits, the greater the variation from body temperature, the greater the effect produced. Alternating hot and cold water can stimulate the circulatory system and improve immune function. A protocol with 3 minutes of hot followed by at least 20 to 30 seconds of cold produces results. Therapeutic water treatments involve friction rubs, compresses, wet wraps, foot-baths, whirlpools, showers, and sprays. Effectively administered water treatments require time and knowledge.
Cold water is commonly used to reduce inflammation. Cancer patients given cold water treatments see their white blood cell counts increased. Cold water treatments for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have reduced frequency of infections, increased white blood cell counts, and improved well-being. Water therapy has been used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondilitis, fibromyalgia syndrome, and frostbite.
Nasal saline irrigations can relieve symptoms of acute sinusitis. Patients with congestive heart failure, enjoyed improved cardiac function after a warm bath or mild temperature sauna. Children suffering from asthmatic bronchitis get some relief from specific water treatments.
Water treatments relieve pain and promote relaxation. Warm water provides pain relief for colonic spasm. Ice packs can be used for back pains, sprains, knees injuries, and treatment of hemorrhoids. Steam is frequently used as a carrier for essential oils that are inhaled to treat respiratory problems.
Water treatments also support a quicker recovery after exercise. Those subjects who recovered with a shower and whirlpool bath for 30 minutes had lower blood pressures and heart rates, and less fatigue than those who rested for 30 minutes lying down.