Hydrotherapy Jala Chikitsa Definition, Advantages, Types, Uses, Precautions

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Hydrotherapy uses water for treatment. It is a part of nature cure – healing by natural measures. Among the five basic elements of nature, when water is used for treatment purposes, in nature cure, it is also called Jala Chikitsa. 

Lui Kuhne was considered as ‘Father of Hydrotherapy’. He was the one who founded this art of treating using water as the chief material.

Forms of water used

Forms in which water can be used in Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy uses water to achieve therapeutic benefits, to treat many diseases. This can be used in many methods –

  • Water is applied to different areas of the body
  • Body parts can be immersed in water
  • Plain water is used for application, spray or immersion or water combined with essential oils, clay and Epsom can be used for enhancing the therapeutic effects of the therapy
  • Water can be directly used in hot, warm, neutral, cold, ice or even steam form
  • Alternatively, materials like cotton towels etc dipped in the above said (hot, etc) forms of water can be used for applying water over the body parts

Advantages of Hydrotherapy

  • Hydrotherapy uses water for treatment. Since water is a natural resource, it is easily available and hydrotherapy can be readily done at any desired time.
  • Hydrotherapy is cheap, safe, efficient and enjoyable.
  • Hydrotherapy provides greater energy.
  • Hydrotherapy improves skin functions, texture and appearance.
  • Water is good for health, thus hydrotherapy is also beneficial for health.

Why Water?

  • Water, among the five basic elements of nature, is the largest body and comprises more than 70% of the universe. Water is also a major component of the body.
  • Water is a universal solvent. It can dissolve many substances in it. Therefore when some additives like essential oils, salt, clay etc are added to it, they easily blend with water and help in enhancing the effect of the therapies.
  • Water is universally available in abundance and is cheap.
  • Water is non-irritating and non-toxic.
  • Water easily absorbs and holds heat. It gives heat easily when applied without cooling quickly. Similarly it can also hold the coldness.
  • Water can store energy in it. It can be converted from liquid to vapor or solid and is useful in all states.
  • Water, when used in the hydrotherapy touches and relaxes each and every part of the body.
  • Read related: Naturopathy – Natural Medicine Basics, Definition, Practices

Thermo Regulatory Hydrotherapy

  • It improves circulation of blood
  • It renews energy as in chronic fatigue syndrome, reduces exhaustion and fatigue, bestows energy and enthusiasm
  • It reduces chances of heart attack and stroke (by improving blood clotting function)
  • It increases levels of specific enzymes in the blood
  • It boosts up sex hormone production. It regulates potency in men and fertility in women/
  • It increases levels of white blood cells and thus enhances immunity
  • It helps decrease unpleasant menopausal symptoms

Mode of Action

Warm water application – When warm water is applied to the tissues, the muscles get relaxed. This also brings about the dilatation of blood vessels. This increases blood circulation to the tissues.

Cold water application – When cold water is applied for short duration, contracts the local blood vessels. This has decongesting effect on tissues and is rapidly followed by reaction in which blood vessels dilate and tissues are flushed with fresh oxygen rich blood.

Alternate hot and cold applications – When hot water and cold water are applied alternatively, they produce circulatory interchange and improved drainage and oxygen supply to the tissues.

Golden rules of Hydrotherapy – Always cold application / immersion should be done after hot application / immersion. The heat of the water should be bearable. Its temperature should be checked before administration. It should not be too hot.

Basic principles for hot and cold application

  • Hot water application – heat should be maintained between 98-1040F or 36.7-400C, excessive heat is dangerous
  • Cold Water application – coldness should be maintained between 55-650F or 12.7-18.30C
  • Short cold application – enhances circulation
  • Long cold application – decreases circulation and metabolism (more than 1 minute)
  • Long hot application – makes the area of application congested, it will need cold application as a remedy to reverse congestion and to restore normalcy
  • Alternate hot and cold application – leads to stimulation and depression of circulation
  • Neutral application or baths at body heat – are soothing and relaxing
  • Read related: Benefits Of Drinking Hot Water: Usage, Contra Indications

Types of Hydrotherapy

There are many types of hydrotherapies. They are as enlisted below –

  • Heat compress
  • Fomentation (hot damp application)
  • Neutral Bath (for anxiety, pain relief)
  • Full sheet pack (for relaxation and detox)
  • Ice pack (for calming inflammation, to ease pain)
  • Steam inhalation (for breathing problems, sinus congestion)
  • Alternating baths (single baths)
  • Sitz bath or local immersion baths
  • Full baths of various types
  • Exercising in water for numerous benefits
  • Use of various additional substances (additives) in water
  • Thalasso therapy

Cautions for Hydrotherapy

Extreme contrasts of temperatures (extreme hot and extreme cold) should not be used for people who have poor circulation and low vitality

Hydrotherapy should never be done immediately after food. It should be done after a time gap of at least 1 or 1 ½ hour.

Hot water therapies should be avoided for patients of diabetes. People of hypertension also should be treated with caution especially when fomentation is being provided.

Tolerance for cold and heat should be checked and determined for each and every person taking hydrotherapy. It will vary from person to person.

Hydrotherapy should be avoided in the presence of below mentioned conditions –

  • Extremely fragile and sensitive skin
  • Skin irritability and hypersensitivity towards moisture
  • Conditions associated with numbness
  • In serious circulatory disturbances

Reflexology related to Hydrotherapy

It is said that water therapy works on certain reflex points and help in healing process.

The body has some reflex points. When these are activated, the organs and tissues inside the body related to these points get activated. Hydrotherapy provided to these regions will activate the mentioned organs and will help in cure of disorders related to these organs and also will help in natural healing. The same principle is applicable to all the reflex points mentioned below.

  • The skin of hand and feet are related to the circulation of head, chest, pelvic organs (urinary bladder, reproductive system).
  • Skin of the neck base is related to nasal mucous membrane.
  • Skin on the spinal region are related to the internal organs supplied with the nerves coming from these spines (spinal nerves) i.e. skin of upper spine is related to heart, lungs, stomach, liver. The skin of middle spine is related to bowels and abdominal organs.
  • Skin on the lower part of the breast bone is related to kidneys
  • Skin on the lower parts of the inner parts of the thighs are related to prostate gland and uterus
  • Skin of the face is related to the blood vessels of the head
  • Skin of the thighs, lower back and buttocks are connected to the genitor-urinary organs
  • Read related: Naturopathy – Natural Medicine Basics, Definition, Practices

Points to remember

Few points to remember regarding Hydrotherapy –

  • Hydrotherapy shall be done in the presence of and on the recommendation of an expert Nature Cure Specialist, and also under his supervision.
  • If hydrotherapy is to be followed at home, the easiest and reliable method should be selected
  • More than one therapy included in Hydrotherapy should not be done at a time or on the same day
  • The frequency of hydrotherapy and the time gap to be given should be decided by the consulting therapist as per the requirement of the patient seeking the therapy

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

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