Hydrotherapy is common practice in multidisciplinary clinics and in households. Have you ever used a heat pack on your sore neck after a long day of work? Or an ice pack on a sprained joint? You’ve practiced hydrotherapy! Massage therapists have used hydrotherapy for years. Heated tables and ice or heat packs are often used during massage to help relax muscles before and after they’ve been worked on. Some massage therapists use Paraffin wax baths as a form of hydrotherapy in their practice.
Heat can increase blood flow into the muscles, delivering more oxygen and nutrients into the muscle. This can decrease spasm in the muscle, and lead to increased flexibility in joints. Not to mention heat can add to a more relaxing massage treatment for the client. Heat will not be used for acute injuries, recent sunburns, people with sensory issues or circulatory pathologies. Cold reduces blood flow to skin, muscles and joints wherever it is applied. This can reduce swelling and inflammation as well as muscle spasm. Cold application can also decrease pain, as the body is often so focussed on the cold it forgets to notice the pain. Cold applications are typical applied with a cold, damp towel, or with an ice pack, but Ice massage is not uncommon. Cold is not used on people with circulatory conditions such as Reynauds disease, or on people with sensory issues. It is also less likely to be used if the client is already cold.
Contrast hydrotherapy is alternating between hot and cold applications, typically in a 3:1 minute ratio. This increases local circulation and is typically used when a serious injury is a few weeks old.
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