Treatment techniques in hydrotherapy
There are many nerve endings on the skin surface and these deal with the reception of stimuli. More of these are cold receptors than hear receptors. If water of a different temperature to that of the skin is applied, it will either conduct heat to it or absorb heat from it. These stimuli have an influence on the sympathetic nervous system and can affect the hormonal system.
The greater the difference between the temperature of the skin and the water applied, the greater will be the potential for physiological reaction. Conversely, water that is the same temperature as the body has a marked relaxing and sedative effect on the nervous system. This is of value in states of stress, and has led to the development of the so-called ‘neutral bath’.
Before the development of tranquillizers, the most dependable and effective method of calming an agitated patient was placed in a tub of water, the temperature of which was maintained at between 33.5ºC and 35.6ºC (92ºF to 96ºF), often for over three hours, and sometimes for as long as twenty-four hours, Obviously, this is not a practical proposition for the average tense person.
As a self-help measure, the neutral bath does, however, offer a means of sedating the nervous system if used for relatively short periods. It is important to maintain the water temperature at the above level, and for this a bath thermometer should be used. The bathroom itself should be kept warm to prevent any chill in the air.
Half an hour of immersion in a bath like this will have a sedative, or even soporific, effect. It places no strain on the heart, circulation or nervous system, and achieves muscular relaxation as well as a relaxation and expansion of the blood vessels : all of these effects promote relaxation. This bath can be used in conjunction with other methods of relaxation, such as breathing techniques and meditation, to make it an even more efficient way of wiping out stress. It can be used daily if necessary.