Water Therapy for Back Pain
Water Therapy for Back Pain
By Brennan Howe
Several types of water therapies exist and can be broken down into
two very different groups: water exercise therapy and hydrotherapy.
Water exercise therapy should be done only by a qualified physical
therapist, while hydrotherapy may be done by a therapist but can
also be done at home to relieve backaches.
Water exercise therapy has many benefits. The buoyancy of
water supports the patient’s weight, allowing a greater range of
motion when the person has too much pain to exercise on land.
This makes water exercise therapy ideal for everyone who seeks
relieve from back pain. Additionally, the water temperature
should be warm enough to relax muscles, which also helps relieve
pain. A physical therapist will have you do in the pool the
same exercises you would do on land; they will just be easier to do.
Some people transition to land exercises when their back allows it,
some continue treatment in the water because they prefer it, and
some incorporate both land and water exercises into the therapy.
Hydrotherapy for relieves pain by loosening the muscles
and ridding the body of toxins that produce pain and inflammation.
Studies have shown that people who soak in a hot tub or warm bath
have less stiffness, more flexibility, and tend to use less pain
medication. Hydrotherapy consists of douches, sauna or steam
baths, wraps, and hot baths with or without herbal additives.
It has been used for centuries and is most popular in Europe.
Many spas now offer various hydrotherapy treatments. The only
risks involved are to people who are temperature sensitive and to
those who have diabetes. You must be careful, though, not to get
To douche your back, use a hose hooked up to your bathtub faucet.
Direct the stream of warm water over the painful area and toward the
heart. The water should not splash, but rather wash gently
over the skin. Do this for ten to fifteen.
Saunas and steam baths help relieve mild because
stimulate the flow of blood, which relieves the pain of pulled
muscles. You should not use a sauna if pregnant and never stay
in longer than fifteen to twenty minutes. To keep from getting
over heated, wipe your face frequently with a cold cloth.
Drink plenty of water to keep from becoming dehydrated.
Warm baths are excellent for relieving mild backaches. Fill
the tub with about 6 inches of tepid water and get in.
Gradually add hot water until the water level in the tub reaches
your naval. The final temperature should be no hotter than 104
degrees. Anything higher can induce a mock fever. Soak
for fifteen to thirty minutes, and when you get out, wrap up warmly
and go to bed. For even more benefit, you can add ½ cup of
Epsom salts to the water to help draw toxins from the body.
Essential oils can also be added to the bath. Some good ones
for alleviating are lavender, marjoram, rosemary, clary
sage, black pepper, ginger, and birch. First mix two or three drops
of the essential oil with two tablespoons of a carrier oil, such as
sweet almond, peanut, olive, grape seed, or walnut oil, and then
pour the mixture under running water. The mixture can also be
massaged directly into the skin. To get a similar effect, tie
½ cup of herbs in cheesecloth and hang under the faucet so the water
runs through the bag. Some good herbs for alleviating back
pain are birch, German chamomile, white fir, wintergreen, and
lavender. Using herbs and essential oils for healing is called
aromatherapy; it promotes self-healing by indirectly stimulating the
Sometimes a physical therapist may do a heat wrap for your back
pain, or you can also do one yourself at home. Moisten a cloth
with warm water, wring it out, and wrap it snugly around the painful
area of your back. Then wrap up in a dry cloth and next a
blanket. Relax for 45-60 minutes. Herbs or hot mud may be
added to the water for added benefit.
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