Posted: 22 Jun 2024 By:  Reading time: minutes remaining

Hydrotherapy: How To Heal The Body With Water

Hydrotherapy, or water therapy, is when you use water to promote health. In today's fast-paced and stressful world, restoring your body and mind is vital.

Hydrotherapy uses the therapeutic benefits of water to promote physical and mental well-being. In this blog post, you will learn more about hydrotherapy. Discover how to use it to deal with pain and other cancer symptoms.


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The information is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe treat or cure cancer.This information is not intended as medical advice, please refer to a qualified healthcare professional.

What Is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is any method that uses water to treat the body. Other names are water therapy, aquatic therapy, pool therapy, or balneotherapy. Hydrotherapy uses either hot or cold water. The intention is to ease both physical and mental symptoms.

People have used hydrotherapy for thousands of years. Many civilizations mentioned it in their writings. Religions believed water had both supernatural and spiritual power. 

Native Americans used sweat lodges for healing purposes in 10,000 BC. The waters of Bath, England, were first used by Paleolithic hunters. Baden-Baden in Germany used water for thousands of years.

Since 5000 BC, India used Ayurvedic steam treatments. Archaeologists found ruins of an ancient bath in Pakistan, dating back as far as 4500 BC. 

On the island of Crete, travelers and visitors had access to public baths and running water. They went there before visiting the king at the palace of Knossos in 2000 BC. An ancient Egyptian medical document mentioned colon hydrotherapy in 1500 BC. 

Roman bath house

Bathing became popular throughout Rome

Hippocrates began using water around 400 BC for healing purposes. He prescribed the use of baths in the treatment of both acute and chronic diseases. Records reveal healers used water to treat rheumatism, fever, inflammation, and other illnesses.

Greeks introduced water treatments to the Roman Empire. By 50BC, bathing became popular throughout Rome. Roman physicians Galen and Celsus wrote of preventing disease with warm and cold water.

The Romans added a system of baths at various temperatures. They used them for recreational activities, rest, exercise, or to heal injuries.

Let's look at various types of hydrotherapy.

Different Types Of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a form of physical medicine using water both externally and internally. Examples include: 

  • Cold or hot water packs
  • Baths
  • Steams
  • Whirlpool spas
  • Hot tubs
  • Colonics
  • Compresses
  • Pools
  • Physical therapy tanks
  • Showers
  • Enemas
  • Sauna

Baths are the most common form of hydrotherapy. They can be hot or cold. Bathtubs or hot tubs with pressurized jets of water are typical hydrotherapies. The pressured water massages your body and can relieve specific symptoms.

Sunset bathing in Blue Water Lagoon, hydrotherapy treatment

Baths are the most common form of hydrotherapy

Ice packs, hot water bottles, and enemas are other forms of hydrotherapy. Even saunas at your local spa or gym are a type of hydrotherapy.

So, what are the health benefits of hydrotherapy? Find out in the next section.

Health Benefits Of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy can relieve symptoms like pain and stiffness. It can help people with:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Muscle pain
  • Stress
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Menstrual pain
  • Insomnia

Water has many properties that make it a good form of therapy. It can treat different diseases and illnesses. Hydrotherapy can involve any form of water, like ice, liquid, or steam. Water can carry heat and energy and dissolve substances like minerals and salts. 

Warm water may help relieve physical, emotional, and mental stress. It gives us the comforting feeling of being in the womb. Bathing induces feelings of comfort and easiness.

You can combine it with soft music, low lighting, or aromatherapy. I've used warm baths to relieve anxiety. Other people I talked to also did frequent baths to deal with anxiety and panic attacks.

Woman in a therapeutic hydrotherapy bath

Warm water may help relieve physical, emotional, and mental stress

Whenever I have a fever and freeze, I take a warm bath to heat my body. You can start to shiver when you have a fever. Our immune system tells the brain that we must raise the thermostat to a higher body temperature. 

The body begins working to increase its temperature. You will feel cold because you are at a lower temperature than your brain thinks.

The body will start to shiver to generate heat and raise your temperature. This body program is the reason why you feel chills. If I keep warm with baths and clothes, I can heal my fever in over 12 hours.

A colder core body temperature can help induce sleep. Some scientists recommend going to bed in a cold room. But a warm bath before bed can yield similar results. 

At night, our body temperatures drop. Soaking in a warm bath will raise your body temperature. When you exit the tub, your body will cool down faster and better prepare you for sleep.

Hot tubs can help you deal with tense muscles and other issues.

Benefits Of Hot Tubs

Hot tubs can help relax and soothe tight, tense muscles. This effect can help ease aches and pains. A warm bath stimulates the circulation of blood. 

It provides the muscles with more nutrients and oxygen. This releases muscle tightness, relieves pain, and improves the elasticity of connective tissues.

Epsom salts in your warm bath can help reduce inflammation in your joints. Salt baths also have positive effects on people who have type 2 diabetes.

Young black woman relaxing in a bathtub while listening to music

Hot tubs can help relax and soothe tight, tense muscles

Soaking in a hot tub may relieve pain by relaxing tense muscles, joints, and tendons. If you have arthritis, the warm water may help ease the stiffness and inflammation.

Water supports your body and takes weight off joints. It helps improve flexibility and range of motion. 

Steam from a hot bath works wonders for stuffy noses and bad coughs. It gets the blood vessels in your face and nose moving, thus loosening any mucus.

Hot water may also benefit your heart.

Hot Water Can Benefit Your Heart

Relaxing in a hot tub can raise your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. According to a 2016 study, hot water immersion may affect your heart and blood pressure. 

The authors believe that heat therapy may help reduce heart risks and death. This effect is terrific for people with limited ability to exercise.

Earlier research found that a ten-minute hot tub immersion may lower blood pressure. It's safe for most people with high blood pressure.

Young woman bathing with sponge and soap

Relaxing in a hot tub can raise your heart rate and lower your blood pressure

In a small 2016 study, participants soaked in a waist-high hot bath for an hour. They burned about the same number of calories as a 30-minute walk. It might help metabolism for those who find it hard to exercise.

A 2015 review found that sauna and hot tub therapy may benefit people with obesity and diabetes. Saunas have several health benefits.

Why You Should Sit In The Sauna

The oldest form of sauna is the wood-burning sauna or savusana. It relies on a stove full of burning wood for its high temperatures. You can control the heat by adding more wood or letting the stove burn the wood inside. 

Instead of an open fire, a sauna uses a small stove called a kiuas. The kiuas heat a pile of rocks. They absorb and continue to emit heat through the surrounding air. The furnace sometimes provides continual heat but only warmth in others.

Sauna rocks have to stand up to high temperatures without cracking or exploding. Peridotite, basalt, and hornblende stones are popular choices in saunas.

Men relaxing in a sauna

Using a sauna lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol

Saunas reach high temperatures and have the best effect around 66 C° (150 F°). Their humidity is relatively low at 20-40%. 

There are both wet and dry traditional saunas. Both of these are the same thing. The only difference is that you pour water onto the rocks of the wet sauna and leave the stones dry in the other one. 

Adding moisture with a sauna ladle increases the humidity, making you feel hotter. Your skin won't be able to vent out the heat from your body once the moisture blocks its pores.

Using a sauna lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol. This effect reduces your risk of heart disease. Regularly spending time in a sauna may help keep your heart healthy and extend your life.

Saunas stimulate your blood vessels, expanding them and increasing the blood flow. They can improve your circulation and enhance your metabolism. 

Saunas may also benefit you if you have cancer.

How Saunas Can Help You Fight Cancer

The University of Eastern Finland tracked 2300 middle-aged men for about 20 years. They categorized the men into three groups according to how often they used a sauna each week. The men spent an average of 14 minutes per visit in 79 C° heat (175 F° ). 

Throughout the study, 49% of men who went to a sauna once a week died. But among those who went two to three times a week, only 38% passed.

Four to seven sauna sessions a week decreased that number to 31%. Frequent sauna visits also led to lower heart disease and stroke death rates.

Man relaxing in sauna

Saunas may help you treat cancer

Saunas may help you treat cancer. A 2002 study in the Annals of Oncology suggested that hyperthermia can reduce cancer. Hyperthermia is when you raise the body's temperature above normal. 

Temperatures between 40 C° to 44° C (104-111 F°) are bad for cancerous tumors. Cancer cells are more sensitive to excessive heat than normal cells. High temperatures can kill cancer cells often without damaging healthy cells.

Cancer often grows in tissues with poor circulation. Saunas increase circulation to the lungs, improving oxygenation. This combination has a powerful stimulating effect on circulation. Together, they can be a valuable benefit for cancer patients.

A temperature around 45 C° (113 F°) can destroy cancer cells. It can shrink tumors with minimal damage to healthy tissues

Risks Of Hot Water Therapies

Hot water treatments have several health benefits. But you should avoid them if you experience the following conditions:

  • Some People With Heart Disease: Soaking in a hot tub can affect heart rate and blood pressure. This effect may benefit some people with heart problems but be unsafe for others.
  • Pregnancy: It's easy to get overheated when pregnant, harming you and your baby.
  • Skin injuries: Wait until cuts, open sores, or rashes have healed to reduce the risk of irritation and infection.
  • Low blood pressure: Avoid the hot tub if you're prone to lightheadedness or fainting. The hot water could lower your blood pressure further.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI): Exposure to hot water when you have a UTI may worsen your symptoms.
  • Nausea: If you feel nauseous, it's better to avoid hot water
  • Skin redness: If your skin gets red and feels painful, quit your session.
  • Shortness of breath: If you have shortness of breath, get out of the tub.

Another type of hydrotherapy is cold baths.

Cold Water Is A Valuable Therapy

Cold therapy is when you expose your body to cold temperatures. Another name for it is cryotherapy

There are several ways to apply cold therapy, including:

  • Cold showers
  • Cold spray
  • Cold water immersion or ice baths
  • Ice packs application
  • Whole-body cryotherapy

Various cultures have used cold water as a therapy for thousands of years. Cold-water immersion became popular due to Wim Hof. He is a Dutch extreme athlete known as "The Iceman." He earned his nickname by breaking world records related to cold exposure. 

Wim Hof

Wim Hof is a Dutch extreme athlete known as "The Iceman, picture by Stefan Brending

Wim Hof is capable of extraordinary things, such as standing in a container filled with ice cubes. He also ran a half marathon in the snow barefoot. Several scientists performed tests on Wim Hof. They proved that his method works.

His program involves cold-water immersion, breathwork, and willpower. Exposing one's body to cold temperatures is one of the three pillars of the Wim Hof Method. 

Professional athletes, bodybuilders, and celebrities use whole-body cryotherapy. They can stand in a sealed container briefly while cold air circulates the body. Whole-body cryo therapy is quite expensive and not available everywhere. 

But, the Wim Hof Method provides an affordable alternative. You can practice the method from within the comforts of your home. Start by taking a cold shower in the morning. 

Cold water therapies have several health benefits.

Health Benefits Of Cold Water Therapy

Scientists have found evidence that exposure to cold speeds up metabolism. Cold exposure also reduces inflammation, swelling, and sore muscles. Many athletes use ice baths to speed up recovery. Cold body therapy also improves sleep, focus, and immune response.

Plunging your body into cold water causes blood vessels to constrict. When blood vessels contract, they push blood toward your organs.

A man taking a plunge in ice-cold water

Cold exposure also reduces inflammation, swelling, and sore muscles

Directing blood toward the organs supplies the blood with more oxygen and nutrients. Your blood vessels open up once you get out of the cold water. 

This effect allows oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to return to your tissues. It helps remove waste products, such as lactic acid buildup.

Cold water therapy can also help you recover from intense workouts.

Cold Water Can Help Athletes Recover Faster

Many athletes use cold water therapy to recover from an intense workout. Some evidence shows that cold-water immersion reduces muscle soreness after exercise.

Cold water therapy may help with short-term and long-term chronic pain. One way it can reduce pain is by lowering inflammation. Inflammation in the body can cause pain.

A small 2011 study found that cyclists decreased soreness after immersing in cold water for 10 minutes. A 2016 study involving 20 participants showed the same thing. 

Winter bath

Cold water therapy may help with short-term and long-term chronic pain

Athletes soaked in a pool of cold water (12°C-15°C, 53.6°F-59°F) after exercise. They reported less muscle soreness than those who had no hydrotherapy after exercising.

Cold water can help lower your body temperature much faster than a cool environment. A 2015 meta-analysis found cold water cooled off people twice as fast as those without hydrotherapy. The key is to immerse as much of your skin as possible.

Sports Medicine published a 2022 meta-analysis. Muscle recovery improved by exposure to cold water. Another way cold water therapy may help with pain is through its effects on the nerves. Water immersion and cold temperatures block nerve cells that signal pain in the body.

Cold water may also offer a quick mood boost.

You Can Boost Your Energy With Cold Water Exposure

 Submerging your body in cold water increases dopamine concentrations. Dopamine is a "feel-good" hormone because it is crucial in regulating mood.

It boosts our mental state at the moment. Some research suggests that cold water therapy may benefit depression and anxiety. 

Challenging yourself to withstand cold temperatures may help you build resilience. Or it may make you handle stressful situations.

Risks Of Cold Water Therapies

Cold water treatments have several health benefits. But you should avoid them if you experience the following conditions:

  • Already cold: Cold water therapies might not be a good idea if you're already cold. The cooler temperature doesn't help warm you up. It could make you even colder and increase the time it will take for your body to warm up. You may experience hypothermia if you stay too long in cold water.
  • Low immune system: Cold therapies is not a good idea if you're sick. The cold temperature might be too hard on your immune system. It's best to try it once you're healthier.
  • Heart issues: Cold water immersion affects your blood pressure, heart rate, and circulation. It can cause severe cardiac stress.

If you do cold baths, follow these steps to recover faster:

  • Put on a hat and gloves
  • Get out of your wet clothes and dry off
  • Dress in warm, dry layers, starting with your upper body
  • Drink a warm beverage.
  • Have a bite to eat
  • Find a warm place to sit down
  • Avoid taking a hot shower. The sudden change in blood flow could cause you to pass out.
  • Ensure someone is on hand to check your condition when you swim, especially in open water.

Our bodies release "fight-or-flight" hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine. Cold water exposes us to these hormones, which can be helpful when dealing with stressors in life.

A man stands on the edge of a cliff and admires the panorama of a frozen lake

Cold water may offer a quick mood boost

A survey asked routine winter ocean bathers about their well-being. They had lower self-reported stress levels and higher well-being than those who did not.

Taking a deliberate dip in an ice bath can help you cope with taxing emotions like stress and anxiety. A study found that cold baths can stimulate your vagus nerve. Stimulation of this nerve enables you to relax and de-stress.

Some people also mix hot and cold therapies-

What Happens When You Mix Cold And Warm Treatments?

Contrast water therapy is when alternating between hot and cold water. It can treat pain from rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.  Some people combine hot and cold water exposure to relieve pain and speed up muscle recovery.

You can also use contrast water therapy to treat foot and ankle sprains and diabetes.

A woman relaxing in an outdoor hot spring pool

Contrast water therapy is when alternating between hot and cold water

Switching back and forth between hot and cold water creates a pumping effect. Blood vessels constrict and expand and boost blood flow. This effect delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. 

The cardiovascular system pumps blood to the lungs to transfer oxygen via the heart to the rest of the body. The better your heart and blood vessels perform these functions, the better you can detox. The result is healthier organs, muscles, and tissues.

Swimming is another type of hydrotherapy.

Why You Should Swim

The benefits of swimming are vast. Regular pool attendance could improve your mental health and lung capacity. Exercise reduces the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Swimming can increase your heart rate without stressing your body. You can also use it to tone muscles, build strength, and improve endurance.

An athlete swimming butterfly in the blue water

Swimming has many health benefits

There are various strokes you can use to add variety to your swimming workout, including:

  • Breaststroke
  • Sidestroke
  • Freestyle
  • Backstroke
  • Butterfly

Each focuses on different muscle groups, and the water provides a gentle resistance. No matter what stroke you swim, you use most of your muscle groups to move your body through the water.

While your muscles are getting a good workout, your cardiovascular system is, too. Swimming makes your heart and lungs strong. Swimming may even reduce your risk of death. Compared with inactive people, swimmers have about half the risk of death

Other studies have shown swimming may help lower blood pressure and blood sugar. 

Swimming may even help reduce some of your pain or improve your recovery from an injury. One study showed that people with osteoarthritis reduced joint pain and stiffness. They also experienced fewer physical limitations.

Swimming has many of the same benefits as land exercises. The humid environment of indoor pools is excellent for people with asthma. Breathing exercises and breath control may help you expand your lung capacity. You can also gain control over your breathing.

Swimming also benefits people with disabilities or injuries.

Swimming Can Help People With Disabilities Or Injuries

Swimming is accessible to many people who deal with physical issues. That makes other exercises, like running, less appealing. Swimming can be a safe exercise option for most people with arthritis, injury, or disabilities.

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) may also find swimming beneficial. Water makes the limbs buoyant, helping to support them during exercise. It also provides a gentle resistance.

In one study, a 20-week swimming program resulted in less pain for MS. These people also showed improvements in symptoms like fatigue, depression, and disability.

Swimming is an efficient way to burn calories. It may help you sleep better at night. In a study, older adults with insomnia slept better after exercising.

A therapist and senior woman and man doing aqua fitness with swim noodles indoors in a swimming pool

Swimming is accessible to many people who deal with physical issues

Swimming may also improve your mood. Researchers evaluated a small group of people with dementia. They saw an improvement in mood after participating in a 12-week water program. Before swimming, check with your physical therapist or primary caretaker. 


Hydrotherapy is any method that uses water to treat the body.

People have used hydrotherapy for thousands of years.

Hydrotherapy is a form of physical medicine using water both externally and internally.

Hot tubs can help relax and soothe tight, tense muscles.

Relaxing in a hot tub can raise your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.

Using a sauna lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Saunas may help you treat cancer.

Cold therapy is when you expose your body to cold temperatures.

Cold exposure reduces inflammation, swelling, and sore muscles.

Cold water therapy may help with short-term and long-term chronic pain.

Cold water may offer a quick mood boost.

Contrast water therapy is when alternating between hot and cold water.

Swimming has many health benefits.

Swimming is accessible to many people who deal with physical issues.

How To Start Using Hydrotherapies

1. Choose hydrotherapy

2. Incorporate hydrotherapies into your weekly schedule

Action Steps

Hydrotherapies can improve your health and make you better deal with cancer. If you want to include hydrotherapy in your life, start by choosing an activity.

One great start is to take warm baths to help you relax. You can also try internal therapies such as colonics or cleanses. Saunas can have many health benefits and may help against cancer. It can also make you detox.

Physical activities such as swimming help you exercise even if you have a problem moving. Decide what you want to do and try to incorporate that activity once a week. If you don't enjoy it, try something else.

You can also try colonics if you want to clean your colon.

Discover How To Cleanse Your Colon In This Free Guide

Download this free cheat sheet to learn four ways to cleanse your colon today.


About the author 

Simon Persson

Simon Persson is a holistic cancer blogger passionate about natural health remedies. When he is not blogging, he enjoys nature, cooking, sports, and learning about the latest gadgets on the market.

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