Hydrotherapy is the use of water, either internally or externally, to maintain health and prevent disease. Although it was the Romans who introduced spas throughout the Roman empire, modern hydrotherapy is commonly attributed to Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-97), who believed that water would dissolve, remove and strengthen. Dissolve matter-containing disease, remove diseased matter from the body and strengthen the body by restoring cleansed blood to the tissues and maximizing circulation.

According to its mineral content, water taken internally can have a laxative, diuretic, phlegmatic (phlegm producing) or diaphoretic (perspiration-inducing) effects. Used externally, water has the power to improve blood and lymph circulation, relax tension in the tissues, alleviate pain and calm the nervous system.

In the past, little controlled research had been carried out into hydrotherapy; and what little there had been done, was more often than not, conducted in Germany. However, in recent years some interesting studies have been carried out into the varied forms and applications of hydrotherapy in medicine.

How does it work?: There is no drug on the market that can rival the number of beneficial physiological effects that water is capable of producing, and it is widely available (unless you happen to be in a desert) and cheap. In fact, there are no substances known to man that possess as many remedial and health-promoting qualities as water. Its therapeutic qualities include sedative, antipyretic (reducing body temperature, anodyne (analgesic,), anticonvulsant, astringent, tonic, anaesthetic, and derivative.

Sedative: a warm water bath will invariably soothe and relax an extremely nervous person and help soothe restful sleep.

Antipyretic (reducing body temperature): no drug can decrease body temperature as quickly and efficiently and harmlessly as water Cold water can reduce pulse from forty to twenty beats per minute and decrease high body temperature within a matter of minutes. Anodyne (analgesic) & Anaesthetic- Hot water fomentations are often used to alleviate joint pain and prolonged use of cold water causes a pain relieving numbness which is used for muscle pain and burn pains.

Anticonvulsant: Warm water is one of the most effective relaxants alleviating convulsions and muscle spasms. It transfers heat into the body to relax tense muscles and increase blood flow to the tissues.

Astringent: there is no better first aid treatment to arrest internal haemorrhage (eg from sprained ankles,, than cold water.

Derivative: this is a method for removing blood from one part of the body by increasing blood flow elsewhere.