Hydrotherapy (Jalachikitsa) – Types and Different Methods of Hydrotherapy


Water is the most important tools in Naturopathy. Hydrotherapy may be defined as the use of water, in any of its forms, for the maintenance of  health or treatment of disease. Also called (Hydrothermal therapy) additionally uses its temperature effects, as in hot baths, saunas, wraps etc.

Father of Hydrotherapy is LUI KUHNE

First contributed by Hippocrates.

Hydro - water

Therapy - Healing

Hydrotherapy is use of water , either internally or externally, to maintain health and prevent disease.

Principles of Hydrotherapy 

1. Local use of warm water causes relaxation of muscular tissue and dilation of blood vessels thus enhancing the local blood circulation.

2. Local use of cold water causes contraction of blood vessels etc.

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Types of Hydrotherapy 

1. Internal Hydrotherapy : Enema, Colon Hydrotherapy, Drinking hot or cold water

2. External Hydrotherapy : Baths, Packs, Douches, Frictions, Whirlpool, Aqua exercises, Cold rubbings, fomentation etc

Different Methods of External Hydrotherapy

A. Baths -These baths are recommended for treating hemorrhoids, menstrual cramps, prostate swelling and various other genitourinary conditions. There is also motion-based therapy, where high-pressure water is used to massage the body. This method is used to relieve stress and anxiety. 
 i. Hot water bath,
 ii.Cold water bath,
 iii. Neutral water bath

Based on applications 

a. Foot Bath (पाद स्नान)
b. Hip Bath ( कटि स्नान)
c. Spinal Bath( पृष्ठ स्नान)
d. Arm Bath ( हस्त स्नान)
e. Steam Bath ( बाष्प स्नान)

B. Compression :Ice packs or cold compresses are used to relieve pain associated with dental surgery, headaches and sprains

C. Fomentations : treatment with moist heat is referred as fomentation. Fomentation is very useful when it comes to treating conditions like arthritis, flu and chest cold.  
D. Packs : Body packs help to calm psychiatric patients and detoxification.

a. Full wet sheet packs
b. Abdominal pack

Hot water treatment :

Hot Water Hydrotherapy is the medicinal use of water for positive health benefits.

These health benefits come from the mechanical and thermal effects of water interacting with the body.

It includes the use of physical water properties, specifically temperature and pressure, to manipulate the body’s flow of blood, the endocrine system and associated neural systems in order to treat the symptoms of certain diseases.

In a reflexive response to external heat, your body initiates changes that help keep the body cool, including dilating blood vessels to increase the blood flow through them, diverting blood flow to the extremities and to the skin’s surface, opening the pores of the skin, activating sweat glands and relaxing muscles.

Over short durations, a hot bath will cause organs of the endocrine system to become less active, particularly the adrenal gland, and can decrease blood pressure. This results in a relaxed, less stressful state and helps calm the nervous system.

Inhaling the steam or vapor from hot water hydrotherapy can be beneficial effect for your lungs as well.

Moist, hot air causes the small airways and air sacs in the lungs to dilate and increases the lung’s ability to move phlegm and mucus out. It can also help people breathe in more easily, since the volume of space in the lungs slightly increases.

The Physical Nature of Hot Water in Hydrotherapy

In addition to temperature, the physical nature and pressure of water used in soaking, full body immersion or Hot Tub Hydrotherapy plays an important role in hot waters effect on the body.

Hot Water Hydrotherapy is used to achieve a wide variety of positive health benefits including:

• Fights Infection & Injury – 

By increasing the rate of blood flow in the body, hot water Hydrotherapy increases circulation of the immune system’s white blood cells, enabling the immune system to work faster and more efficiently.

A hot soak increases the production of endorphins in the body as well. Endorphins are the body’s “pain killers” and are associated with feelings of elation or happiness. Endorphins also stimulate the immune system, alleviate pain, and help tissues heal faster.

• Helps Clear Respiratory Infections – 

The inhalation of steam, particularly those medicated with compounds like menthol, alleviates the constriction of swollen lung canals and air sacs, allowing fluids and mucus to move out of the lungs more readily, and oxygen into the lungs more efficiently.

When your body fights lung infections, they move the ‘remains’ of organisms it has killed (and your spent white blood cells) out of your body via mucus, so clearing mucus and fluid out of your lungs is important in helping your body clear an infection as quickly as possible.

• Reduces Pain & Inflammation from Arthritis and Rheumatisms – The increase in blood flow brought about by hot water helps muscles relax, which lessens stress and pressure on joints, thereby alleviating pain from arthritis and rheumatism.

Inflammation in surrounding muscles and connective tissue is caused by a combination of cellular reactions to injury and a buildup of fluids, and when blood flow is increased, the body is able to reabsorb fluids faster and heal injury faster, helping reduce inflammation over time.

• Helps Improve Sleep & Relieve Stress – The calming effects hot water has on the nervous and endocrine systems help put our bodies in a “lower gear”, thereby relaxing us mentally.

This state of heightened relaxation makes it easier for us to fall asleep and helps alleviate daily stress and anxiety.

• Prevents Headaches – When blood vessels dilate, the physical space our blood has to fill in our bodies increases, and therefore overall systemic blood pressure decreases. Headaches are often brought about by high pressure in the arteries of the skull, so lower blood pressure helps prevent this from happening.

In addition, stress is often a culprit of constricted blood flow to the brain, which can also lead to headaches. Since hot water Hydrotherapy treatments help alleviate stress, they can also limit the onset of stress-induced headaches as well.

• Helps Control Blood Sugar in Diabetics – Recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that people with Type 2 Diabetes had an easier time controlling their plasma sugar levels and weight when they soaked in hot water for 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.

In some instances, people needed less insulin each day as well. The increased blood flow, which mimics exercise and decreases activity of the endocrine system while increasing blood circulation to and from tissues, plays a role in the body’s ability to maintain glucose levels. Hydrotherapy is especially helpful in alleviating painful symptoms in people who have a harder time exercising than those who do not.

• Reduces Symptoms in Patients with Nerve, Muscle or Connective Tissue Diseases – Because hot water Hydrotherapy has a calming effect on the nervous system and helps increase blood flow to soft tissue, it helps alleviate symptoms associated with neural and muscular diseases by decreasing demands on neurons, decreasing stress in the muscles, and increasing the flow of oxygen to soft tissues, which aids in healing.

• Relaxes Muscles, Heals Muscle Injuries & Relieves Muscle Disease Symptoms – Hot water Hydrotherapy is especially helpful in bringing increased blood flow to the soft tissues of the body, particularly the muscles. In cases where people suffer from muscle injury or disease, hot water Hydrotherapy can provide great relief from many muscle discomforts including cramps, swelling, pain and spasms.

• Treats Circulatory Problems – When blood vessels dilate, as they do during hot water Hydrotherapy treatment, circulation and blood flow is increased, particularly to soft tissue like muscles. This is especially helpful in people who suffer from circulation problems, especially to the limbs and extremities.

People who suffer from cold hands and feet will find that many times hot Hydrotherapy doesn’t only provide an immediate relief, but that it continues to help even hours after the initial soaking period.

Cold water Treatment :

Cold water therapy is the practice of using water that’s around 59°F (15°C) to treat health conditions or stimulate health benefits. It’s also known as cold hydrotherapy.

The practice has been around for a couple of millennia. But recent adaptations include ice bathsbrisk daily showers, outdoor swims, and cold water immersion therapy sessions.

Cold water therapy — whether it’s a quick swim in icy surf, a post-workout ice bath, or a brisk shower — can benefit your health in several ways.

It may help you:

  • cut down on muscle soreness
  • cool down after a sweaty workout
  • get into a better mood
  • aid your immune system
  • boost your metabolism

Some advocates say it can also decrease inflammation, improve your sleep, and sharpen your mental focus. But more research needs to be done to determine if these benefits are supported by science.

If you decide to try cold water immersion, talk to your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you

Foot Bath 

Hot Foot Bath :

 The hot foot bath (HFB) consists of placing the feet in hot water (starting at 100 to 104 degrees F) and applying a cold compress to the head for 15-20 minutes. It is given at temperatures ranging from 100 to 115 degrees F. This treatment can be given with the patient sitting in a chair or lying down. Either way, you need to protect the mattress or floor with a plastic sheet.

Health Benefits

This treatment helps to balance circulation and decrease congestion in the head, lungs, pelvic organs, and internal organs. The treatment acts as a derivative. A derivative effect happens when heat is applied to a large area of skin and its effect is to draw blood away from a distant internal organ. A HFB draws congested blood away from the brain, lungs, and pelvis. If prolonged, it can elevate the body’s temperature which will increase the mobility of white blood cells. For that purpose, you would want to cover and tuck in a blanket around the patient so that body heat will not be lost.

Indications for a HFB:

Generally, a HFB helps to relieve congestive headaches, chest congestion, pelvic congestion, stop a nosebleed, aid relaxation and comfort, abort or shorten a common cold, influenza, and painful menstruation.1 The HFB is useful for osteoarthritis in the feet if there is no pronounced swelling. We have found at our Lifestyle Center that the hot footbath, when combined with a fomentation to the kidneys, reduces elevated blood pressure.

Cold Foot Bath 

Three to four inches of cold water at a temperature of 7.2 °C to 12.7 °C should be placed in a small tub or bucket.
The feet should be completely immersed in water for 1-5 minutes. Friction should be continuously applied to the feet during the bath, either by attendant or by the patient by rubbing one foot against another.
A cold foot bath, taken for one or two minutes relieves cerebral congestion and uterine haemorrhage.

Arm Bath 

 The hand and arm may be immersed in neutral, hot or cold water or the two latter alternately. For this purpose employ a foot tub (better one of elliptical shape) with sufficient water to immerse the hand and fore arm to the elbow.

When hot water is used, it should be as hot as can be borne. Immersion of the hands in cold water is useful in controlling epistaxis.

Spinal Bath 

  This bath provides a soothing effect to the spinal column and thereby influences the C.N.S. 
It is given in a specially designed tub with its back raised so as to provide proper support to the head.
The bath can be administered at cold, neutral and hot temperatures. The water level in the tub should be an inch and a half to two inches and the patient should lie in for 3 to 10 minutes.
The cold spinal bath relieves irritation, fatigue, hypertension and excitement, It is beneficial in almost all nervous system disorders such as hysteria, fits, mental disorders, loss of memory and tension.
It is the ideal treatment for insomnia and also relieves tension of vertebral column, muscular backache.

Hip Baths 

Hip bath is one of the most useful forms of hydrotherapy. A special type of tub is used for the purpose. The tub is filled with water in such a way that it covers the hips and reaches up to the navel when the patient sits in it.

Hip bath is given in 3 forms:

  1. Cold.
  2. Hot.
  3. Neutral or alternate temperatures.

Cold Hip Bath:

The water temperature should be 18-240C. The duration of the bath is usually 15 minutes. If the patient feels cold or is very weak, a hot foot immersion should be given with the cold hip bath. The patient should rub the abdomen gently with a moderately coarse wet cloth. The legs, feet and upper part of the body should remain completely dry during and after the bath. The patient should undertake moderate exercise or yogasanas after the cold hip bath to warm the body. A cold hip bath is a routine treatment in most diseases.


  • Relieves constipation & indigestion.
  • Obesity.
  • Helps the eliminative organs to function properly.
  • Helpful in menstrual problems like irregular menstruation, premenstrual and post menopausal problems.
  • Piles.
  • Enlarged prostate gland, seminal weakness, impotency, sterility.
  • The cold hip bath should not be employed in acute inflammations of the pelvic and abdominal organs.


This bath is generally taken for 10 minutes at a water temperature of 40-45C. The patient should drink one glass of cold. water. A cold compress should be placed on the head. A cold shower bath should be taken immediately after the hot hip bath. Care should be taken to prevent the patient from catching a chill after the bath. The bath should be terminated if the patient feels giddy or complains of excessive pam.


  • Helps relieve painful menstruation, pain in the pelvic organs, painful urination, and painful piles.
  • It also benefits enlarged prostate gland, painful contractions or spasm of the bladder, sciatica.
Neutral Hip Bath:

The temperature of the water should be 32-360C. This bath is generally taken for 15- 20 minutes. The patient should drink one or two glasses of cold water and sit in the tub, avoiding friction to the abdomen. Cold compress should be kept on the head. After neutral hip bath relax for 30 minutes.

  • The neutral hip bath helps to relieve all acute and sub-acute inflammatory conditions of bladder, urethra, and uterus.
  • Help in constipation, piles and menstrual disorders.
Alternate Hip Bath:

This is also known as repulsive hip bath. The temperature in the hot tub should be 40-450C and in the cold tub 18-240C. There are two methods of giving this bath. In both the methods 1-2 glasses of water should be taken before treatment. The head should be kept cool by applying cold compress over the head. The treatment should end with cold hip bath.

  1. The patient first sit in the hot tub for 5 minutes and then in cold tub for 5 minutes.
  2. The second method of giving alternate hip bath is 3 minute hot and I minute cold. Repeated 4-5 times.


  • This relieves gastric pressure and constipation.
  • Reduces the back pain.
  • Helps in relieving chronic, inflammatory condition of the pelvic organs.
  • Increases the peristaltic movement.
  • Activates the kidney and other genitorunnary organs.

  • Hip bath should be taken in empty stomach.
  • Pure water should be used. Women should not take hip bath in menstruation.
  • Discontinue the treatment if there is weakness / dizziness.
  • Avoid cold hip bath if there is back pain.
  • Cold hip bath must be followed by vigorous exercise while other hip baths will need some exercise

Abdominal wet pack

Requisites - Two cotton cloths of 2 meters long and 1/2 meter wide. Blanket 1x1/2 meter.

Duration - 1 hour

Procedure - Dip the cotton cloth in cold water and wring out to remove the excess water. Wrap the cloth around the abdomen from lower part of the ribs to the groin. Over this, wrap the dry cloth and finally the flannel so that the pack fits snugly.

Uses - Abdominal compress is useful in cases of Gastritis, hyperactivity, indigestion, poor blood circulation to the liver, Jaundice, constipation and other complaints relating to the abdominal organs.

Steam Bath -

Steam rooms are enclosed spaces that are heated with steam. The temperatures vary, but steam rooms are typically kept somewhere around 110°F. You’ve probably seen steam rooms before at your gym or inside a spa.

Steam rooms are similar to saunas. Both encourage you to sit in a small, heated room, and both claim your health will benefit. The big difference is in the type of heat that they provide. A sauna uses dry heat, usually from hot rocks or a closed stove. Steam rooms are heated by a generator filled with boiling water.

While a sauna may help relax and loosen your muscles, it won’t have the same health benefits of a steam room. The key to the steam room’s unique health benefits is the humidity.

Health benefits 

Improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, clears congestion. promotes skin health, lossens stiff joints, Burns calories, Boosts immune system. The steam bath is helpful in all forms of chronic toxemia . It also relieves neuralgias, chronic nephritis, infections,tetanus and migraine.


Also known as rectal irrigation, an enema involves the injection of fluid into the rectum. In nature cure treatment , only lukewarm water is used for cleaning bowels.
The patient is made to lie on his left side extending his left leg and bending the right leg slightly. The enema nozzle, lubricated with oil or Vaseline, is inserted in the rectum. The enema containing the luke warm water is then slowly raised and water is allowed enter into the rectum.Generally one to two liters of water is injected.The patient may either lie down on his back or walk a little while retaining the water. After 5 to 10 minutes, the water can be ejected along with accumulated morbid.
A cold water enema is helpful in inflammatory conditions of colon, especially in cases of dysentery, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids and fever.
A hot water enema is beneficial in relieving irritation due to inflammation of the rectum and pain full hemorrhoids.

Whirl Pool Bath

Water temperature - Cold 18-24°C,  neutral 32-36 °C

Duration - Between 15 to 45 minutes

A whirl pool bath is essentially a local bath for extremities,  with the limbs submerging in rapidly circulating water
It can be created in any size tub or tank, making it possible to immerse the whole body for hydro-massage effect

1.Therapeutic Effects

The whirlpool bath combines the values of conductive heat and gentle massage.

The hydro-massage effect accomplishes the following:

A sedative action.

A relief of pain by stimuli which act through the pain gait mechanism

A relaxation of muscle spasms.

2. Actions

          Producing vasodilatation

Improving local arterial and lymphatic circulation.
Softening of scar tissue.
Breaking down old adhesions after fractures of sprains.
Cleaning and stimulation of wounds.
Mechanically removing dirt, dead tissue and pus.
Causing regression of the inflammatory process.
Diminution of edema and effusion.

3. Types of Whirlpool Baths

Combination of arm/leg and hip whirlpool tank. The electric turbine ejector produces a stream of aerated water. A seat provides comfort and security to the patient.

Vibra bath unit: the water is agitated or circulated by means of air blown into water or by turbine or by one or several ejector placed water jets. There are portable whirlpool for the elbow. The Whirlpool bath use can be started as soon as the second day after a soft tissue injury.

Jacuzzi ( hydro-massage unit): can be used in any tank to provide a controlled supply of whirling aerated water.

7. Indications

      Poor circulation.
      Chronic edema.
      Separate dead tissue.
      Pain relief in amputations ( phantom pain).
      After removal of plaster cast (fractures).
      Stiff joints.
      Infected wounds → with added antiseptic agent.
      Arthritis with stiff and swollen joints.
      Polyomyelitisand paraplegia to improve circulation.
      Traumatic and chronic inflammatory conditions.
      Weak and painful feet.
      As preparation to massage, passive stretching and exercises.

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