Of all the home treatments, hydrotherapy is the oldest, the most popular
and the most useful. Like all of the true remedies,
hydrotherapy requires more skill, effort, and patience than do many other forms of therapy. The skill required is not so great
that all can, with diligence and patience, master it. The rewards of healing under God's special blessing is very great from
The definition of hydrotherapy given in the World Book Encyclopedia copyright 1948 is:
is a method of treating disease by using water at different temperatures
and in different ways.
The water may be swallowed, or injected into body cavities, or applied to the outside of the body by baths or
The history of hydrotherapy probably goes as far back as human history.
A form of self-prescribed and self-administered
hydrotherapy that most small boys on hot days have experienced is a plunge or a swim in cold water. The invigorating effect of
cold water is well known. The ancient Romans built and used public bath houses for therapeutic purposes. The encyclopedia
mentioned famous locations in Europe where hydrotherapy was used such as Marienbad, Carlsbad, Ems, Vichy, and Bath. The
famous hydrotherapy places that the encyclopedia said people visited in the United States included Mount Clemens and Battle
Creek, Michigan; Hot Springs, Ark.; Hot Springs, Va.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Seratoga Springs, N.Y.; French Lick and
West Baden, Ind.
Doctors Calvin and Agatha Thrash, in their book Home Remedies copyright
1981, mention in their chapter on the history of
hydrotherapy that for years hydrotherapy has been a respected method of treatment in the United States. It was recognized that
the Brand Bath (spraying and sponging with cold water accompanied by vigorous rubbing) was considered very useful in the
treatment of typoid fever in 1927. It was recognized as "powerfully stimulating to the nervous system, fortifying the patient to
conquer the infection." It was felt that the benefits accrued through the circulatory system, the immune mechanisms and the
What history tells us is that hydrotherapy is an ancient and popular therapeutic modality.
PHYSIOLOGICAL BASIS OF HYDROTHERAPY TREATMENTS
Water has a number of unique physical properties that makes it especially
well suited to be a therapeutic agent. Water has the
greatest specific heat of any common substance. That means that it takes more energy to change the temperature of water than
that of any other common substance. This means that water can store more energy in itself than other common substances. Yet
at one and the same time water is a good conductor of heat energy. This means that anything put in water will be powerfully
influenced with respect to temperature because water is such a good conductor of heat energy. Water will conduct heat 27
times more effectively than air. Water shares a property with air, in that it completely envelops and surrounds intimately anything
emmersed in it. Water is completely compatible with the human body, in fact the human body contains about 75% water. This
means that the human body cannot be allergic or be irritated by water and that the heat conduction properties of the body and
water are similar because the body contains such a high percentage of water. Finally water is the universal solvent. Just about
anything will dissolve in water. This means that water is just about the most powerful cleaning agent we have. And in spite of all
these special qualities of water it is probably the most easily available and therefore the cheapest commodity known to mankind
In summary: the three most important properties of water from a treatment standpoint are:
1. Water is non-irritating, non-allergic, and totally compatible with human physiology both inside and outside of the body.
2. Water is heat conducting and at the same time greatly heat storing
in capacity so that it is the ideal agent for manipulating
3. Water is totally conformable to the body surfaces. This means that
it makes an intimate interface with whatever it comes in
contact, which greatly facilitates its ability to affect the temperature the object it contacts.
4. Water is inexpensive in spite of all its marvellous properties.
The affect on the human body depends upon how water is administered.
Basically there are two different routes of
administration: internally and externally on the body surface. Today, we usually only think of hydrotherapy in terms of external
body surface administration of water. The internal administration of water we usually today think of in terms of general health
principles e.g. drinking 6 - 8 glasses of water a day or we think of internal administration of water solutions as hydration therapy
rather than hydrotherapy even though water is being used. Such re-hydration therapies are: enemas or subcutaneous or body
cavity (e.g. periotenal) infusions or intravenous rehydration which is the most commonly used today. This restricted use of the
term hydrotherapy is a recent trend. Specialization has influenced our thinking. However the use of water as a true remedy
includes both internal and external use of water. However in our present setting we will confine our discussion and
consideration of external forms of hydrotherapy only.
How water affects the body when applied to the body surface:
1. Water is absorbed to some degree directly through the skin. When
minute amounts of the substance applied to the skin are
desired, then skin application is one way of getting substances into the body. However for large volume requirements e.g. for
body fluid re-hydration needs, skin absorption is of limited value because such small amounts of fluid is absorbed directly
through the skin. Certainly this is a useful way of limiting the loss of water through the skin. Loss of water through the skin is
through perspiration, commonly known as sweating. When the body is immersed in water, fluid loss by sweating is stopped and
a small amount of fluid is absorbed while none is lost through the skin. Body fluid loss by sweat is very variable and depends
upon body activity and temperature. Sweating is one of the main temperature regulatory mechanisms that the body has. The
common figure used for fluid requirements of the body for an average sized person at rest is three quarts of fluid needed a day.
Some of this fluid is taken in food, but most of the daily fluid requirements should be taken in the form of water.
2. Water maximally affects the temperature of the body because of its
high specific heat and heat conductivity properites.
Because of the body's homeostasis mechanisms, the whole body physiology is affected through the temperature affect of water.
3. Water profoundly affects the nervous system of the body. This is
due to two factors. First of all the largest organ of the body
is the skin. It is to the skin that hydrotherapy is applied. The skin is not only a vast organ in size, but is richly supplied by nerve
endings which means that the central nervous system receives an overwhelming sensory input with the application of
4. Water affects the mood of the person. This is unavoidable given the
size and intensity of the sensory input the individual gets
5. Blood flow is profoundly affected, locally and reflexly throughout
the body. With the application of heat, the blood vessels
and capillaries dilate and blood is brought to the body part. When cold is applied to the skin, the vessels constrict and blood is
dispelled from the body part. The affect of alternate hot and cold is that of an efficient local blood pump. Wastes are removed
from the body part and new blood and nutrients are brought in by the blood. In addition cold has the effect of multiplying the
number of white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infection.
6. Water thus has a major affect of many body systems, depending upon where and how the water is applied.
7. Water has a profound affect on the local skin to which the water
is applied. This is in addition to and entirely separate from
any water that is absorbed through the local skin.
These affects of water on the body surface can be summarized under three headings:
1. Local affects e.g. hydration, cleansing on the local skin.
2. Reflex effects - mediated by the nervous and circulatory systems
3. Mood or attitude affects on the person's psyche - stimulating, relaxing, soothing, feeling of wellbeing etc.
Water has these varied affects in three different ways dependent upon water's physical properties:
1. Temperature/ heat conducting properties
2. Solvent / cleansing properties
3. Mind affecting properties mediated by water's fluid characteristics
interfacing with the body's largest and very generously
innervated organ - the skin.
Thus it can be seen that it would take a lot of time and thought to
detail all the specific and different ways and physiological
pathways through which hydrotherapy works. Suffice it to note that hydrotherapy is using a very powerful medium, water, that
has a very instant and powerful affect on body physiology. God has given us knowledge in the use of hydrotherapy that can be
used to be a great blessing to the sick and suffering. May we pray for grace and energy to use the knowledge God gives us to
His glory and honor.
SPECIFIC HYDROTHERAPY TREATMENTS: HOW TO GIVE THEM.
1. HOT AND COLD TREATMENTS
Hot and cold treatments are indicated to stimulate the person's immune
system and to enhance the body's local fight against
infection or inflammation. Thus the list of conditions where hot and cold are indicated are just about endless because the
different types of infections and inflammations the body is prone to is just about endless. Specific examples of indications for hot
and cold include:
1. The common cold.
2. A local infection such as an ingrown, infected toenail.
3. A local imflamation such as a tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, sprains, tendonitis, chronic bursitis, etc.
METHODS OF APPLICATION
There are many ways to apply hot and cold to the body. The three generally used methods are:
1. Hot and cold tub or bucket soaks. This is especially useful for hands and feet infections or inflammations. 3 min hot and 30 seconds cold.
2. Alternate hot and cold shower applications: 3 min hot and 30 seconds cold.
3. Fomentations: This is especially applicable for chest or abdominal
infections or inflammations in debilitated individuals who
need maximal care rather than self-care such as using a shower.
DETAILS OF APPLICATION
1. Hot and Cold Foot or Hand Soaks:
1. Two water resistant containers of sufficient size to easily contain the foot or hand or body part to be immersed in it.
2. Temperature measuring device such as a thermometer or an intact hand
to determine that the water is not too hot for the part
to be immersed in the water.
3. Time measuring device such as a timer or wrist or wall clock.
4. Suitable place to administer treatment that is private, and not subject
to draughts, and is comfortable with a chair to sit on
and a table to support the container for hand or elbow or floor space for the container for a foot treatment.
5. Hot and cold water source.
6. Water disposal facility such as a sink or a toilet to dispose the water after the treatment.
7. Towel to dry the part treated after the treatment.
The patient needs to be comfortable with suitable clothing to expose
the hand or foot to be treated. The body part is carefully
placed in the hot water first after measuring the temperature with a thermometer eg. 100-103°F or testing it with the person's
hand or foot after the care-giver has already determined that the water is not hot enough to do damage to the hand or foot. The
water container is placed in a comfotable position for the hand (on a chair or table) or foot (on the floor or low stool) and the
body part is slowly immersed in the water. The timer is set for three minutes. The water can be agitated to increase the heat
transfer to the part if desirable.
When the timer sounds, the part is carefully removed from the hot and
placed in the cold water for ½ - 1 minute. How hot the
hot is and how cold the cold is depends upon the patient and their tolerences. The principle is that the temperature difference is
what has the effect, rather than on the absolute temperatures of the hot or the cold. Ice water is good for young, vigorous
individuals. The older or infirm may not tolerate ice water as well. During the one minute in the cold, attention can be given to
the temperature of the hot water. If necessary, add more hot. If necessary, pour off some water to make more room for more.
The temperature of the water will be tolerated hotter and hotter and may be increased up to 110°F (44½°C) if desired with
patients who have no sensory or cardiac problems (not a diabetic with peripheral neuropathy and not a cardiac patient).
Repeat three times. Begin with the hot and end with the cold. The treatment
can be continued longer if necessary - eg a serious
infection. However, for practical purposes the maximum benefit-effort ratio seems to be three changes ending with cold.
The part treated is then dried with a towel and covered to prevent chilling.
The used water is disposed of. The containers are
cleaned and dried and put away for re-use later.
Treatments are generally given once or twice a day for a period of three
weeks or until complete resolution of the problem is
experienced. Several treatments a day are beneficial especially in the case of serious infections. For chronic conditions such as
a chronic bursitis or tendonitis, where complete resolution is not experienced, as long as the body part is not heat-damaged,
there are no side effects and no "down-side" to a prolonged treatment program of months or years. Resistant infections or
inflammatory conditions usually need diet and exercise therapy to build the body to the place where complete resolution of the
problem is realized.
2. Hot and Cold Shower.
CAUTION: Diabetic patients with diabetic neuropathy and certain heart
or stroke patients should check with their
medical consultant before giving themselves hot and cold shower treatments.
1. A shower with sufficient hot and cold water source for 15 minute shower.
2. Towel for drying and clean clothes to dress in after treatment.
3. Opportunity to rest after the treatment for 20 minutes is ideal.
4. A single water temperature control valve is convenient for hot and cold showers but not necessory.
5. An intact skin that can sense water temperature accurately, or an
assistant who can, or a thermometer to accurately measure
the water temperature so that it does not rise above 100-105°F during the hot cycle shower.
The patient treats the body part that has the infection or inflammation
by starting with hot water for about 3 minutes and then
turning the shower water cold for about 30 seconds and then going back to the hot for 3 minutes etc. for three changes.
Treatment should begin with the hot and end with the cold.
It is important that the body is dried thoroughly immediately after
the shower and not exposed to cold or drafts while getting
dressed. The hot shower can make the body feel weak. It would be beneficial for some patients to be able to rest for a time
after the hot and cold shower. An ideal time to give a hot and cold shower is just before retiring at night.
Frequency and duration of treatments depend on the condition. See the
section above for general advice which applied to all
hot and cold treatments.
1. Six large bath towels
2. 3 - 6 fomentation cloths: flannel or wool cloths 3/4 the size of the bath towels when folded in three or four thicknesses.
3. Plastic bag (e.g. grocery bag) in which to place moistened fomentation
cloth for warming in a microwave oven or boiling
4. Microwave or large pot and a stove for heating water
5. Ice cubes ½ -1 tray full and a small container to hold the
ice cubes and a washcloth to cover the ice cubes and use with the
6. A rubber sheet and towel or newspapers to put under the patient to be treated.
7. A bed or couch or other suitable device for the patient to lie on
while being treated. It is ideal to simply treat the patient in
their bed - using newspapers or a rubber sheet covered with a towel to keep from getting the mattress or lower sheet wet.
The room must be free from draughts and warm where the treatment is
given. The patient must be covered with only the
portion of the body exposed for the treatment. That portion of the body to receive the treatment is covered with a bath towel in
preparation to receiving the fomentation.
The fomentation is either heated in a microwave oven or in boiling water.
Place a lightly dampened fomentation cloth (1 - 2
cups of water to dampen the cloth) rolled up and inside a plastic bag. A dry cloth will not get warm or retain its warmth. The
fomentation cloth is better slightly damp than wet. Five to seven minutes or 10 minutes or whatever time is needed in the
particular microwave to make the fomentation cloth near boiling temperature. To heat the fomentation cloths in boiling water,
leave both ends of the cloth out of the water - held by the lid so as not to fall into the boiling water or if heading it inside a
plastic bag be sure the bag can be retrieved easily. After the cloth has been in the boiling water 5 minutes, wring it as dry as
possible using the ends left out of the water for that purpose or simply recover it from the water in the plastic bag. Rapidly wrap
the hot fomentation cloth (whether heated in the microwave oven or in the boiling water) in a bath towel and roll the whole
fomentation cloth inside the bath towel up in a roll to conserve its heat while it is carried to the patient. Place the combination
fomentation cloth in the bathtowel on the towel covering the patient's body and cover the patient with a blanket.
This is the critical time of the treatment - the time when a new, fresh
hot fomentation has just been placed on the patient. The
danger is that the patient may be burned by the hot fomentation. Keep close monitoring on how the patient feels and by
constant testing of the heat on the body part with the therapist's hand placed under the fomentation with the hand directly on the
patient's skin to feel the fomentation cloth with the back of the therapist's hand and at the same time the patient's skin with the
work side of the therapist's hand. If either the fomentation or the patient's skin feels too hot, or the patient complains of
discomfort - protect the skin by constant movement of the therapist's hand under the fomentation or if necessary remove the hot
fomentation long enough to place an additional bath towel - either single or double thickness on the patient's skin and replace
the fomentation. Once the peak temperature is passed and the fomentation is well tolerated by the patient, then put the second
fomentation on to boil or to cook in the microwave. After an additional 5 minutes and the fomentation has clearly lost its heat
and is cooling down, bring the next fomentation to the bedside. Remove all the layers and with a towel on each side of the body
to catch the melted ice-water, rub the skin either with a wet ice water wash cloth or use the cloth to rub ice cubes directly on
the skin of the patient for 30 seconds. Then dry the skin with a dry bath towel and place the next fomentation on the patient.
The treatment cycle is hot - cold for three changes, begining with the
hot and ending with the cold. After the last cold, it is
important to dry the skin completely and remove any wet sheet or newspapers and let the patient sleep, warm and dry for a
while. It is ideal to give this treatment just before retirement, and the patient can sleep the night through after the treatment..
1. Rest and Relaxation. Because it takes time to receive (and give)
a hydrotherapy treatment, rest and relaxation is a potential
benefit from the treatment. If the patient relaxes and enjoys the treatment, rest, enjoyment, and relaxtion can be a rational
expectation from the treatment.
2. Anti-inflammatory effects can certainly be expected. Hot and cold
treatments are probably the most powerful
anti-inflammatory treatments with essentially no side-effects, known to mankind. While the anti-inflammatory effects are certain,
it takes other ture remedies working in concert with hot and cold treatments to effect a cure for the inflammed body part, for
example, tendonitis or bursitis. An unrefined, whole plant diet and general exercise such as walking, swimming, or cycline are
needed to act in concert with the hot and cold to effect a permanent cure of the inflammation.
3. Anti-infectious effects of the hot and cold hydrotherapy treatments
are dependent upon the body's immune system being
potentiated. Mental attitude such as trust in Divine power, nutrition, rest, general exercise, internal use of water, sunlight, fresh
air, cleanliness are all important in potentiating the immune system.
Hydrotherapy is a very broad subject that can only be introduced in
this presentation. The skillful use of water as a treatment
modality is an extremely potent and useful, ancient home remedy. The physical properties of water and the fact that 75-80% of
body content is water contribute to the reason for water treatments being so effective. Hydrotherapy works especially well in
concert with the other true remedies such as sunlight, fresh air, hygiene, temperance, unrefined diet, rest, exercise, and trust in
Hydrotherapy Simple Treatments for Common Ailments, Clarence
Dail, M.D./Charles Thomas, Ph..D., 1989, TEACH
Servucesm Brushton, New York.
Home Remedies, Hydrotherapy, Massage, Charcoal, and Other Simple
Treatments, Agatha Thrash, M.D. and Calvin
Thrash, M.D., 1981, Yuchi Pines Institute Health Education Department, Seal, Alabama 36875
Principles of Simple Treatments for the Home, Clarence Dail,
M.D., Charles Thomas, Ph.D., 1984, Health Care &
Education Center, 4027 W. George St. Banning, CA 92220
Simple Remedies for the Home, Clarence Dail, M.D., Charles Thomas, Ph.D., 1985, MMI Press, Aldworth Toad, Box 279, Harrisville, NH 03450
Simple Home Remedies, Agatha Thrash, M.D., Uchee Pines Institutde, 30 Uchee Pines Road, Seal, AL 36875-5703
Hydrotherapy for the Home Made Easy, Stella Peterson, 1974, Professional
Health Medicine Services, P. O. Box 922,
Loma Linda CA 92354
Get Well at Home, Richard Hansen, M.D., 1995, Shilo Medical Publications,
RFD 1, Box 4035, Poland Springs, Maine
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