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What Is a Hydrotherapy Bath?

Painful menstrual cramps might be relieved in a "sitz" hydrotherapy bath.
A sitz bath can be a form of hydrotherapy.
A foot bath to treat athlete's foot is a form of hydrotherapy.
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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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Hydrotherapy is a term used to describe any kind of medical treatment using water, including everything from giving water to a dehydrated person to cleaning a wound. A hydrotherapy bath is one of the most common approaches to giving people hydrotherapy. This can be done in a regular bathtub, or it can be in some kind of special tub like a whirlpool. In most cases, a hydrotherapy bath involves immersion for a lengthy period of time, and there are often medicines, herbs, or special oils applied to the water as part of the therapy.

Sometimes a hydrotherapy bath is used by doctors to treat serious conditions. An example would be treating a burn victim by immersing him in water with special medicines in it. This can help sterilize burns and prevent infection. It’s also possible to use hot baths to treat muscle injuries, because warm water can help muscles relax and promotes increased blood flow, which can make muscles heal more rapidly. On the other hand, a cold bath can potentially reduce inflammation, and some people like to alternate between warm and cold baths as part of their therapeutic treatment plan.

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There are several different kinds of hydrotherapy bath treatments, and they can be used in different situations. Sometimes individuals will simply take a full bath and fill it with medicines. In other cases, people may use a so-called "sitz" bath, which involves filling the tub up to the depth of the hips and sitting in in an upright position. Sitz baths are often used to treat conditions like painful menstrual cramps or hemorrhoids. Another approach is to fill the tub to ankle depth and take a foot bath, which can be used to treat many different conditions, including athlete's foot and arthritic pain in the feet.

Sometimes hydrotherapy bath treatments are used in ways that haven’t been scientifically proven. There are a lot of people that claim hydrotherapy can potentially cure cancer, for example. Doctors haven’t been convinced of this view, and while many agree that hydrotherapy has potential health benefits, there are also worries that some people may be relying too much on it instead of proven medical treatment approaches.

The idea of using hydrotherapy bath treatments is an ancient concept. People in many cultures have believed in healing pools and used water to treat injuries. There are also religious concepts in some cultures that give water mystical healing powers, and there are still some movements that hold these beliefs.

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