Hydrotherapy & colonic hydrotherapy
The term Hydrotherapy ('hydro' meaning water) refers to a process which uses water at any temperature or form to relieve pain and treat illness, and is a practice which has been in use since the 5th century B.C.
It was Greek physician Hippocrates who first cited the use of water for therapeutic purposes, but its medicinal merits did not go unnoticed by ancient Egyptian or Roman civilisations either. Egyptians were said to have bathed in flower essences and aromatic oils and historical evidence proves that public baths were a central feature of Roman colonies.
Post Roman Empire public baths fell out of fashion as a result of Christian culture frowning upon public nudity. However the Middle Ages brought about a revival as physicians began using sulphur rich springs for the treatment of skin complaints and other ailments. Come the 18th century hydrotherapy was recognised as a scientific method and physicians were commonly utilising the healing properties of water for the treatments of illness.
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Hydrotherapy exists in many other variations, for instance the NHS often uses physical therapy performed in water for post operation rehabilitation. Treatment applied in these kinds of heated pools utilise the warmth to relax the muscles, the buoyancy to resist movement and the weightlessness helps to decrease stress and pain on the joints.
Other methods include:
Colonic hydrotherapy - a process which involves flushing water through the bowels to eliminate toxins and cleanse the colon.
Sitz bath - individuals are immersed up to hip level in water which is either cold or alternating between hot and cold. This is particularly effective for issues which affect the abdomen, reproductive system, intestinal pains, kidney pains, menstrual disorder, haemorrhoids and abdominal cramps.
Hydro massage - jets of water positioned at various heights which correspond to certain body areas, with a similar effect to that of massage.
Wraps - the individual receiving treatment will be wrapped in cold wet sheets before then being covered with dry blankets and towels which are removed within an hour. This treatment is good for muscle pain, skin disorders and colds.
Compress – similarly to wraps, the individual receiving treatment is wrapped in towels or sheets which are soaked in hot or cold water. The cold causes the blood vessels near the skin to constrict which diverts blood to inner areas. The hot dilates blood vessels which improves circulation from tissues, relieving any inflammations.
What conditions can hydrotherapy help?
Hydrotherapy is said to be particularly effective for rehabilitation after orthopaedic and spinal surgery which have resulted in chronic pain. There are a number of variations of hydrotherapy, all of which are known to have a pain relieving effect. One example is that of a hydro bath, which will release huge quantities of large bubbles to relax muscle tension and reduce swollen joints. One particular way it does this is through the stimulation of endorphins which will help to control the pain and alleviate tension.
Low back pain
Several studies have reported the use of hot whirlpool baths with massaging jets to reduce the duration and severity of back pain when used alongside conventional medicine.
Often we think of stress as something which effects us only in a mental capacity but in addition to these psychological problems it can also cause a multitude of physical issues. We already known that stress related illnesses can cause high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, depression etc which all have a knock on effect on the immune system.
Most forms of hydrotherapy are found to be relaxing, in particular the jets of water in hydro baths are said to cause a level of relaxation similar to that of massage, releasing endorphins and contributing to overall well being.
Please note, whilst many individuals have found hydrotherapy to be effective in treating the above, there is currently no scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of the treatment in those particular areas.
Colonic hydrotherapy carries a stigma which is far from accurate, leaving many people feeling a little queasy just thinking about how painful and embarrassing it would be. These misconceptions couldn't be farther from the truth as the treatment is quite the opposite to the pre conceived idea most people have, leaving you feeling clean, revitalised and well and is administered in a professional and comfortable environment.
Your practitioner will be prepared for you to be nervous and will put you at ease before a brief rectal exam is carried out. After this, a speculum of 1.5 inches (4cm) is introduced to open the sphincter. Both an inlet and an outlet tube are then attached to the outside of the speculum, so that the system is open with water flowing in and waste flowing out.
Firstly, the water is fed into the lower bowel while you lie on your side. After this stage is complete, you will be asked to turn on your back before being a given a gentle massage using techniques across the bowel profile, stimulating it and encouraging it to empty itself. Your practitioner will then continue to work around the bowel area using the same process.
There are several circumstances in which colonic hydrotherapy is not advisable, for instance if there is an inflammation or haemorrhoids in the treatment area. If you do have any health concerns then it is important you discuss these with your practitioner before commencing treatment as they will be able advise you on whether or not it is safe to proceed.
This treatment is particularly helpful when used to treat bowel complaints such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) as the water temperature helps to normalise the bowel as well as flushing out any unwanted toxins.
The treatment can also be useful during dieting periods, fasting, detoxing and liver flushes as well as treating specific issues such as asthma, bloating, indigestion, bowel complaints and skin problems.
What training and qualifications do practitioners need?
Hydrotherapists and colonic hydrotherapists are not currently regulated in the UK. This means there are no laws in place which outline what qualifications and experience an individual must have in order to practice.
However, there are a number of professional associations that therapists can choose to register with, so those seeking the therapy can feel assured their practitioner is qualified to a high level. Colonic hydrotherapy is a particularly complex treatment which should always be carried out by a practitioner with the correct training and experience. The professional associations which list colonic hydrotherapists have strict guidelines to ensure the safety of patients. In order to become an accredited member the therapist must meet certain requirements which have been set by the association and must agree to adhere to their code of ethics and complaints procedure.
Aquatic physiotherapy is a form of hydrotherapy which is usually sought for rehabilitation purposes. In terms of training and qualifications, it will be carried out by a registered physiotherapist whose training will have consisted of a recognised three or four year university based course leading to Bsc in physiotherapy.
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