Hot tubs offer a relaxing, warm-water environment that combines buoyancy and massaging jets, making them a practical and well-used tool for many types of therapy. From the relief of general discomfort to the specialized treatment of medical conditions, hot tubs promote diverse aspects of health and wellness when used under the guidance of medical experts. Before undertaking a therapeutic hot-tub regimen, ensure that you know the following.
In an interview reprinted by the “Chicago Tribune,” Atlanta Spa & Leisure owner Adam Burke told “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” that relaxation and stress relief are the top reasons customers purchase hot tubs. According to the American Heart Association, heat from hot-water spas leads to a process called vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels. As the blood vessels open up, tension and pain can also loosen their grip on the body.
The AARP also notes that hot water is known for its soothing properties, which can be enhanced by aromatherapy with essential oils, whereas cold water is an inflammation fighter.
Hydrotherapy can be a useful tool in the healing of sports injuries, according to a report by certified athletic trainer Terry Zeigler, Ed.D., on SportsMD, but only if heat is applied at the appropriate time in the repair process. Hot-water treatments used too soon after an injury can only aggravate inflammation and further damage tissues.
Later in the healing process, when pain and swelling have begun to significantly subside, Zeigler notes that the use of moist heat can activate circulation, provide pain relief and reduce muscle spasms. Hot tubs allow for broad areas of the body to be fully immersed in superficial heat therapy, Zeigler said. Hot tubs with jets are notable for their massaging effect, and water buoyancy may be a tool to help injured patients loosen muscles and slowly rebuild their range of motion and strength in the forgiving underwater environment, she said.
Other Therapeutic Uses
Much in the same way that hot tubs offer benefits for sports injuries, those with arthritis may also find relief from pain and stiffness with water therapy, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Increased circulation and free movement in the water make hot tubs an ideal environment for the safe exercise of sore joints and muscles. According to the AARP, hot tubs are occasionally used by women’s health practitioners to ease labor pains.
A preliminary study published in 2000 in “The New England Journal of Medicine” also explored the role of hot-tub therapy among diabetic patients whose condition prevents them from exercising. Positive changes in weight and blood sugar, perhaps attributed to improved blood flow to skeletal muscle, were reported in the study, leading other medical scientists to call for more research on the results.
Individuals with any type of medical concern should not use hot tubs unless first approved by their doctor for such therapy. Avoid hot-tub temperatures that exceed 102 degrees, and do not soak in the hot tub for more than 10 to 15 minutes. Always seek out a professionally maintained hot tub that is cleaned regularly to ensure cleanliness and hygiene, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American Heart Association notes that hot-tub use is safe for most people with high blood pressure unless a doctor has advised the individual to avoid even moderate exercise. Hot-water therapy is not advised for individuals with sensory or nerve damage because of the risk of unnoticed burns, according to Zeigler. Those who are pregnant should never use a hot tub without the formal guidance of a medical professional, according to the CDC.