Now, there’s something that combines the two – warm water therapy.
In fairness, warm water therapy has been around for thousands of years, but we’re finally understanding how and why it actually works to ease stiffness, pain, and just about every other symptom of musculoskeletal conditions.
A Good Soak…
…really can make you feel better. All you have to do to experience the benefits of warm water therapy is to run a bath.
That’s it. In spite of the fancy name, you can call warm water therapy your evening bath, and it really is the same thing.
Twenty minutes in the tub can:
- Loosen joints
- Release muscles
- Ease pain
- And relax your mind so you feel better emotionally, as well as physically
How It Works
You’ve probably heard of high impact, low impact, and no impact activities. What those rankings boil down to are how much gravity affects and jars your joints.
The higher the impact, the harder activity is on your joints. In order to really rest your joints and muscles, you need a no impact environment, one that reduces the effects of gravity.
And that’s what warm water therapy delivers.
The buoyancy of the water reduces the impact of gravity on your joints, so there’s less pain. Since water provides full support for your sore muscles, they aren’t having to do any of the work.
Any movements during warm water therapy are truly NO impact movements.
This break from gravity helps decrease inflammation and swelling – and the pain and discomfort that come along with inflammation and swelling!
Plus, the warmth of the water helps improve circulation, which also helps with pain.
Turning Your Tub Into Warm Water Therapy
While a nice bath can feel good, a few easy steps can turn it into real warm water therapy.
First, make sure the temperature isn’t too hot. It’s warm water therapy, after all. Aim for 92* to 100*. That range will give you the maximum benefits of heat without being so hot as to start causing problems.
Once you’re in the tub, move as much as you can. Depending on the size of your tub, you may be limited, but warm water therapy is ideal for stretching sore muscles and flexing stiff joints.
If you don’t have enough room to move – or so, but want to increase the benefits of the bath – stretch gently once you’ve gotten out of the tub, as well.
Practitioners of warm water therapy report this combination of soaking and stretching afterwards combines for greater relief than either alone.
Finally, try adding bath salts or oils. A bath can be a great carrier for nutrients that your body needs.
For example, most people don’t get enough magnesium, which is a mineral that promotes bone health (and so much more!). You can use warm water therapy to get magnesium into your system by adding Epsom salts to your tub.
They’re made of magnesium, and you can absorb through your skin. Limit your Epsom salt baths to once a week.
If bath salts aren’t your thing, essential oils can boost the efficacy of warm water therapy. Try a few drops of pure eucalyptus oil. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease pain and stiffness.
Just be sure to start with one or two drops at first. You can always add more if you want, but you can’t take it out if you need.
Finally, be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your soak, though, because the warmth can dehydrate you if you’re not careful.
Alternatives to the Tub
What if just getting in and out of your tub is too difficult? Or if you don’t even have a tub? Don’t worry!
You can still benefit from warm water therapy – you just need a pool!
Most YMCAs and many senior centers have pools you can use for a nominal fee. Even some hotels allow locals to have pool memberships, so ask around your community.
Look for water aerobics classes or gentle stretching classes. It’s all easier and less painful when you’re in the water – that’s the whole point of warm water therapy – so even if you’ve had to give up traditional exercise classes, water classes could really help.
There are even water tai chi classes, called ai chi, that focus on balance and relaxation for less pain and stiffness.
Can’t find a class? Find a corner of the pool and simply float, bob, or paddle a bit. Just like you were in your tub, you’ll get the same benefits of warm water therapy.
You can also add basic stretches to your personal pool routine. Be sure to stay in the shallow end and don’t over-exert yourself at first.
At home or in the pool. Warm water therapy can be a life-changing experience. Go from stiff and sore to flexible and relaxed, thank to your regularly scheduled soak.