Hydrotherapy is the use of water of varying temperatures in order to constrict and dilate blood vessels, bringing blood (and nutrients and oxygen) to the tissues and whisking waste products away from the tissues faster than would otherwise happen physiologically.  It’s terrific for detoxification, general immune modulation, and (what’s more relevant to the case at hand), decreasing local inflammation.

For instance, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflamed joints.

So, putting the two together, a systematic review from earlier this year out of the UK pooled the results of six studies in which hydrotherapy was prescribed for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients.  The conclusion was that hydrotherapy can “reduce pain, joint tenderness, mood and tension symptoms, and increase grip strength and patient satisfaction” in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

As you might expect, hydrotherapy is also effective for inflammatory structural (or musculoskeletal) conditions of all kinds.  This includes fibromyalgia.

A similar meta-analysis of ten studies using hydrotherapy for fibromyalgia demonstrated positive outcomes for “pain, health status, and tender point count” and concluded, “There is strong evidence for the use of hydrotherapy in the management of FMS (Fibromyalgia Syndrome).”  

This even works for athletes – another evaluation of three studies using cold and contrast water therapy for delayed onset muscle soreness after intense workouts demonstrated improved recovery and decreased swelling.  Here’s another study that came to the same conclusion.

The take-home message: hydrotherapy can decrease local inflammation, whatever the cause.  And if you’ve got a faucet, a freezer, and a couple of towels (maybe – these may or may not be necessary depending on your technique), that’s good news.

Consider this first next time, before you reach for that bottle of Advil!