Woman floating in water

The word hydrotherapy refers to the therapeutic use of water, according to Merriam-Webster.

However, that can mean many things. Cold water, hot water, aquatic exercise — all can be used in hydrotherapy.

Ahead, we’ll show you five types of hydrotherapy you should know about:

  1. Water circuit therapy.
  2. Aquatic exercise.
  3. Aquatic massage.
  4. Steam baths.
  5. Saunas.

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Water Circuit Therapy

Water circuit therapy is a type of hydrotherapy that combines multiple forms of water therapy.

As we explained in our previous article on the topic, a water circuit therapy session might look something like this:

  • 10-20 minutes in a hot tub to warm and massage tight muscles.
  • 10 minutes in a sauna to encourage sweating and increase circulation.
  • 10-20 minutes in a cool bath to bring down your body temperature.
  • 10 minutes in a cold bath to reduce pain, minimize inflammation and boost your mood.

Water circuit therapy is so effective because it combines two potent forms of therapy: cold water therapy and hot water hydrotherapy therapy.

Cold water hydrotherapy is known for its ability to:

  • Reduce muscle damage.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Relieve pain.
  • Improve your mood.

By contrast, hot water hydrotherapy is known for its ability to:

  • Relieve stress.
  • Relax tight muscles and joints.
  • Promote better sleep.
  • Promote clearer skin.

2. Aquatic Exercise

With aquatic exercise, you reap the benefits of physical exercise without the impact of non-aquatic activity. This is especially beneficial for people with arthritis, sore muscles and joints or injuries.

According to an article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled “Health Benefits of Water-based Exercise,” aquatic exercise is a great choice for:

  • Older adults.
  • People with chronic illnesses like arthritis.
  • People with heart disease and diabetes.

Plus, the CDC reports that people enjoy exercising in the water more than they enjoy exercising on land.

To engage in aquatic exercise, you could practice hot tub yoga, consider purchasing a swim spa or do some basic exercises in your pool or hot tub.

3. Aquatic Massage

Just as aquatic exercise is simply exercise that takes place in water, aquatic massage is a massage that takes place in water.

Many spas and health centers offer aquatic massage services, in which you float in a relaxing pool of water while a professional masseuse gives you a therapeutic massage.

You can easily get an aquatic massage at home, though. All you’ll need is a hot tub, pool or bathtub and a willing volunteer.

If you have any injuries, however, it would be best to see a professional physical therapist before engaging in any aquatic massage at home.

4. Steam Baths

Steam baths are a form of hydrotherapy that involve immersing yourself in steam rather than water.

According to an article published in Medical News Today, “What are the benefits of a steam room,”  steam rooms have a variety of advantages such as:

  • Improved circulation. This can help to reduce blood pressure, promote heart health and encourage the skin to heal
  • Better skin. Steam rooms cause users to sweat, which in turn works to wash away dirt and dead skin.
  • Workout recovery. Moist heat, such as that found in a steam room, has been shown to reduce pain, preserve muscle strength and relax tired muscles.
  • Loosen stiff joints. Just like a normal pre-exercise warm-up, steam rooms can loosen stiff joints and decrease the amount of force needed to move them. Plus, they can also help relieve joint pain, which can be great for people with arthritis.
  • Reduced stress. Last but not least, steam rooms can release endorphins and reduce stress. Since stress is known to have adverse health effects, this may be beneficial to overall health, too.

5. Saunas

Although similar to steam baths, saunas differ in that they use dry heat rather than moist heat. Just like moist heat, dry heat is associated with a number of health benefits.

According to a Medical News Today article titled “Sauna: Health benefits, risks and precautions,”  saunas have been used for thousands of years. Their benefits include:

  • Pain relief. The dry heat of saunas can relax muscles and joints, thereby reducing pain from injuries, exercise or health conditions like arthritis.
  • Reduced stress. Just like steam rooms, the heat of saunas can help to release endorphins and lower stress levels.
  • Better cardiovascular health. Research has found that frequent sauna users are less likely to experience cardiovascular events like heart attacks, and even have a lower mortality rate. Saunas may also help to lower blood pressure and improve heart function.
  • Improved skin. Since saunas dry out the skin, people with conditions like psoriasis may see their skin improve. However, Medical News Today reports that people with eczema may experience increased irritation.
  • Asthma relief. People with asthma have reported relief from various symptoms. That’s because the heat of saunas can help to open airways and loosen stubborn phlegm.

Plus, saunas have even been found to strengthen the immune system.

However, it should be noted that those with heart conditions should always check with their doctor before using a sauna. For more on sauna safety, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of saunas, check out our previous blog post here. Or, click here to find out whether a sauna or steam room is best for you.

With those five types of hydrotherapy, there truly is something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to reduce illness-related pain, enjoy better workout recovery or simply relax, hydrotherapy can help.

Want to find out more about hydrotherapy? Take a look at these previous blog posts: