Hydrotherapy is any method that uses water to treat a variety of symptoms throughout your body. You might see it called water therapy, aquatic therapy, pool therapy or balneotherapy.
Hydrotherapy can be as simple as taking a warm bath at home, or you might use a special tank or pool. The term hydrotherapy also includes the use of pressurized jets, hot and cold temperatures and ice packs.
Hydrotherapy is an alternative (naturopathic or nonpharmaceutical) treatment, which means it’s not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Even though there are legitimate benefits that experts have studied, hydrotherapy is sometimes marketed as a cure-all in ways that aren’t accurate. It can even be unsafe. Because of these risks, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before adding any new treatments to your routine for managing your symptoms or conditions.
If you choose to use hydrotherapy, make sure you’re receiving it from a reputable clinic and provider.
Who needs hydrotherapy?
Technically, nobody needs hydrotherapy. It’s not a standard treatment for any disease, condition or symptom. As it becomes more widely studied, experts are finding what it is and isn’t effective in treating.
If you’re interested in hydrotherapy, talk to your provider about it and how it might benefit you, which types of aquatic therapy are right for you and what you need to know before starting them.
Why is hydrotherapy used?
Hydrotherapy is primarily used to relieve symptoms like pain and stiffness. Your provider might suggest a form of hydrotherapy as part of your broader treatment or symptom management plan. Hydrotherapy can help people with these symptoms feel better:
What does hydrotherapy treat?
People with several conditions can benefit from using water in different forms and at different temperatures to feel better. Hydrotherapy can provide symptomatic relief to people with the following conditions:
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Cerebral palsy.
It’s important to remember that hydrotherapy doesn’t cure any of these conditions. It shouldn’t take the place of any treatments or medications your healthcare provider prescribes you. In most cases, hydrotherapy helps people feel better by temporarily relieving pain, stiffness and swelling.
It’s never a bad thing to find a safe way to feel better, but you shouldn’t expect hydrotherapy to cure any condition — especially more serious chronic diseases.
What happens during hydrotherapy?
What happens during hydrotherapy depends on which form you receive. It can be as simple as bath or shower at home. Most hydrotherapy techniques have both at-home versions and more specialized applications done at dedicated clinics. Some of the most common forms of hydrotherapy include:
- Baths: Soaking in hot or cold water.
- Pressurized jets: Applying pressurized water to your body.
- Temperature regulation: Applying ice packs, cyro (dry ice) packs or heat (in a sauna, for example) to different parts of your body.
What happens after hydrotherapy?
Most hydrotherapy applications don’t require any special follow up. However, if you’re using hydrotherapy for a specific condition or to relieve certain symptoms, talk to your provider about any changes you notice.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Water has always been used to help people feel better, and that’s no different today. In fact, hydrotherapy is an increasingly popular form of symptom relief for lots of conditions and issues. Make sure you’re getting treatment from a reputable and certified provider, and talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new hydrotherapy.