Dive into Water Therapy

Written by Dr. Reinhard Bergel

Water therapy refers to the internal and external use of water to treat various types of illnesses and injuries. External healing with water is used to help people who suffer from physical limitations. In addition to being relaxing and enjoyable, water helps to support the weight of the body, which allows individuals with limited range of motion to bend, stretch, reach and move in ways that they may not be able to on land. Exercising in water allows individuals to reap the benefits of rehabilitation exercises while protecting their fragile joints from further injury or damage. In fact, water exercises provide a high level of resistance, or hydrostatic pressure that provides a high intensity which is an effective exercise that is gentle on the body.

Furthermore, mineral spa water baths, mud baths, mud packs and remedial water exercises offer comfort, relaxation and exercise to those who deal with arthritis, stress and depression. Flotation in water is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable feelings. It is well known that flotation tanks (also known as isolation tanks) are used for meditation and relaxation.
Spa resorts are currently using water therapy programs as an alternative, more natural way, to address many conditions ailing their clients. Within this article, three forms of water therapy treatment will be discussed: underwater pressure massage, Vichy shower and Kneipp Kur.

Underwater-Pressure-MassageUnderwater Pressure Massage
The therapeutic benefit of the underwater pressure massage comes from the relaxing effect of warm water applied at a variable force on the muscles, particularly on deep-lying muscle layers, subcutaneous tissues, skin, and the abdominal organs.

"The underwater pressure massage is indicated for cellulite, myofascial release, scars, muscle tension, sciatica, chronic back discomfort, and abdominal viscera release. It is contraindicated for cardiovascular insufficiencies, venous disorders, thromboses and varices."

In the underwater pressure massage, the client lies relaxed in a large tub or pool of warm water. A stream of water under pressure is applied by means of a hose that has interchangeable nozzles. The water needed for the massage is drawn from the tub and returned under pressure through the hose. The high-pressure stream of water is created by an internal pump with water temperatures that range from 96.8° Fahrenheit to 100.4° Fahrenheit.
Water stream pressure is controlled by the massage therapist and determined by the sensitivity of the client. Seeing that the body weighs 10 percent less under water, the connective tissues respond differently to pressure which can be administered significantly deeper without the risk of skin bruising. For clients who have sensitive tissue, one must begin with low water pressure and raise the pressure slowly. Conversely, clients with large connective tissue mass can usually withstand higher water pressures. For an average 30 minute deep tissue massage, this form of water therapy is highly individualized and thus highly effective and comfortable for the client. It is easy for the technician to administer this treatment since the water pressure actually performs the massage. A technician can comfortably administer more underwater pressure massages than table massages per day without the common wrist, elbow and/or neck complaints caused by performing deep tissue procedures. Thus, this service is highly profitable for the spa and technician.

Vichy Shower
A Vichy shower, named after the town of Vichy, France, helps facilitate spa treatments such as a salt scrub or mud table treatment. The Vichy shower treatment is a form of hydrotherapy massage with a temperature of about 105° Fahrenheit and/or contrast temperature (warm-cool) application. For optimal vascular results, the client is first dry-brushed with a soft bristle brush. An actual Vichy shower includes five to seven shower heads that are placed in a row over a cushioned table. During the treatment, the client lies on a cushioned table while water showers the body.
Spas worldwide feature the shower in some of their most popular hydrotherapy treatments. Some spas use the shower as a complement to massages, wraps and scrubs, while others use the Vichy shower as a stand-alone therapeutic treatment. Most spas administer a Vichy shower treatment in a specially designed wet room with tiled walls and floor.
The shower may be tonic or sedative. For the tonic shower, a fan spray is applied to the sides of the trunk and the abdomen, at a temperature of 98° Fahrenheit to 104° Fahrenheit. For the sedative shower, the water is applied to the abdomen at a temperature of 98° Fahrenheit with virtually no pressure for two to four minutes in a circular or spiral motion. Spa therapists facilitate the application of scrubs and wraps with the Vichy shower. Depending on which kind of scrub or wrap the client chooses, the Vichy treatment can be invigorating, warming, purifying or soothing. Some spas incorporate the Vichy shower into massage treatments or even as a means to remove product from a client who has received a cellulite or hydrating treatment. Clients may favor a treatment accompanied by the Vichy shower because it enhances the spa experience by allowing the treatment to be completed without having to move to another room for the removal of product. In fact, many spa therapists find this method of removing product from services more thorough than having a client remove the product in a standard shower.

"The Vichy shower treatment was originally created for clients with neurological symptoms, cardiovascular insufficiencies, mild hypertension, and lymphatic congestion. The treatment is not done in the case of vascular instability, open skin ailments, lymphedema and pregnancy."

Kneipp-KurKneipp Kur
Sebastian Kneipp created a lifestyle philosophy that sees man going about his daily habits and routines in his natural environment as an inseparable entity. At the age of 28, he cured himself of a severe case of tuberculosis. At that time, the disease was usually fatal, but Kneipp came across an 18th century book on hydrotherapy by Dr. Sigmund Hahn that inspired him to immerse himself several times a week in the icy Danube River. These brief exposures to cold water seemed to bolster his immune system. His tuberculosis went into remission and he dedicated the rest of his life to harnessing the healing power of water, specific plants and herbs.
The daily treatment program was founded by Kneipp, primarily on the basis of intuition and now bears his name as an active form of treatment which has grown in significance with the advancement of civilization. It is by no means merely a treatment with cold water and the derisory references to splashing about with cold water.
The Kneipp program has evolved into one of the most recognized health enhancement programs in the modern life spectrum of all ages, playing a prime role in the fields of preventive and rehabilitative medicine. Within this program, there are five pillars to be practiced and followed which provide the principle, techniques, indications and limitations of Kneipp Kur.
In his approach, Kneipp considered the elements of hydrotherapy, exercise, phytotherapy, nutrition and diet, and a balanced harmonious (orderly) daily life to be closely linked. He united them in a holistic lifestyle program, which is practiced and taught to this day by young and old. The Kneipp treatment does not consist exclusively of hydrotherapy but represents a more comprehensive system based on the following five principles: hydrotherapy, exercise, phytotherapy, nutrition and diet, and a balanced daily lifestyle.

Hydrotherapy
Kneipp hydrotherapy offers a wide range of possible variations with more than 100 different ways of using water. The range of hydrotherapeutic measures encompasses everything from the slightest stimulation, as given by simply rubbing down one of the extremities to the extreme stimulation as induced by the pressure-jet and bath routine. Thanks to the wide variety of stimuli it is possible to adapt to the individual reactions of each person. The basic requirement for this sort of treatment is that the organism is still capable of reacting. The various techniques that are used in Kneipp hydrotherapy include rubbing down; wraps, compresses and packs; water-jet hosing (Scotchhose, Blitzguss); baths; steam; water-treading; and miscellaneous techniques.

Exercise
In the case of exercise, one can, to a great extent, follow the inclinations of the person. It is important, however, that the person should derive some pleasure from the treatment, because what one has learned must become part of his/her daily routine. The fact that the person exercises is more important than the nature of the exercise. The exercise should, however, be dynamic and not static. Static exercises primarily deal with the exertion with long-term tensing of the muscles such as weight-lifting and press-ups. Dynamic exercises include all rhythmic activities such as walking, running, swimming and cycling.

Phytotherapy
To avoid misunderstandings, it should be mentioned that phytotherapy has nothing to do with homoeopathy or anthroposophy. It is well known that there are phytotherapeutic drugs that have very strong effects, such as morphia, digitalis and more.
At the present time, when preventive medicine is coming forward to take its rightful place alongside curative medicine, such a therapeutic approach must be welcomed. When old prejudices have been removed, the role of phytotherapy as a preventive, rehabilitative and, in less severe diseases, a curative measure will be seen in its true light. More than almost any other method of therapy, phytotherapy is more suitable for the combination with other principles of treatment, such as medicinal, physical, nutritional or psychological. The potential of this synergism as an alternative is, for the most part, not being sufficiently exploited at present. Phytotherapy can represent a genuine advance in the field of therapy when properly employed by a qualified practitioner.

"Nature has provided us generously with everything we need to remain in good health."

nutrition-and-dietNutrition and Diet
The dietetics of Kneipp corresponds greatly with the modern findings in the field of nutrition. Fanaticism in questions of nutrition is rejected. The diet should be as widely established as possible, whereby overeating should be avoided, fats should be limited to approximately 80 grams per day (half in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids) and the intake of pure carbohydrates in the form of sugar or sweets should be restricted. Lean meat and soya beans are recommended as sources of protein.
Kneipp fresh vegetable juices can be used as supplements to modern civilization foods; they are carefully extracted from wild plants, retaining all of their high-quality active and nutritive substances. These juices are a valuable help in maintaining and recovering health, as a result of the minerals and active vegetable substances they contain. They are an ideal source of enzymes, trace elements, vitamins and organic compounds, which are particularly important nowadays when our daily food is processed, denaturalized and overcooked.

Balanced Daily Lifestyle
The aim of having a balanced daily life is the achievement of a natural rhythm of life with physiological alternation between activity and relaxation in mind and body alike. The daily routine must be the first object of time planning and here, the standard is the endogenous daily rhythm of the human being. Health is not only a question of fitness, but also a question of our ability to plan our lives. With the changes in our way of life brought about by technological developments, we have banished the great epidemics and are no longer exposed to the external stimulations necessary to maintain health. The more freedom and spare time we achieve as a result of these changes, the more we are responsible for our health. We must want our clients to be healthy and be prepared to do something about it.

Reinhard-BergelDr. Reinhard Bergel is the president and founder of H-e-a-t. Inc (Health-enhancement-accessories-training) Spa Kur Therapy Development. He is an advisor in Spa Kur facility development and conducts spa staff training. He has published numerous articles, as well as the comprehensive SPA ENCYCLOPEDIA. Bergel is a founding member of the American Society of Lymphology and American Day Spa Association and has operated a health spa clinic and physical rehabilitation center for almost two decades. He has been practicing and teaching lymphedema management since 1986. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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