Hydrotherapy is...

  • treating a disease with hot or cold water, externally or internally to maintain and restore health.
Water has been used therapeutically for centuries. Hot springs and healing baths where used in ancient times as well as the application of cold. Hippocrates mentions using cold for the treatment of acute or overuse injuries.

Hydrotherapy complements any treatment. It can be used to prepare the tissue before therapy. For instance, heating an area of focus will soften the connective tissue and bring circulation into the musculature. At Sacred Stone Massage Therapy, Basalt and Jade stones are used as the medium to deliver heat to the body, following the principles of LaStone® Therapy. Hydrotherapy can also be applied after certain techniques to moderate their effects. For example, chilled Onyx stones can be used after friction therapy to reduce the inflammatory response and aid in healing.

Heat may be applied with a heating pad, paraffin wax, microwavable oat bag or in a bath. The duration of treatment is usually between 10 and 30 minutes, no longer. Talk to your therapist about the most appropriate length of treatment for you.

Effects of heat...
  • increase in local vasodilation and blood flow to the skin and muscles below the heat source. This results in an increase in metabolism, oxygen and nutrient supply, and an increase in sweat production
  • pain perception is decreased
  • muscle tone and spasm are also decreased
  • a general sense of sedation and relaxation occurs
Avoid heat if you have...
  • acute injury; heat will increase bleeding and swelling if used in the first 48 hours after injury
  • infections, open wounds, burns
  • heart disease or high blood pressure
  • impaired skin sensations i.e.; as with diabetes or multiple sclerosis
  • analgesic drugs in your system

Cold may be applied with an ice or gel pack, cold towels or cold stones! The four stages felt during a cold application are a sensation of cold; tingling or itching; aching or burning; then numbness or analgesia. To eliminate the risk of frostbite, ice and ice packs should be wrapped in a small towel, and should not be applied directly to the skin. Cold may be used for 10 - 15 minutes or 10 minutes on, then 10 off repeated three times. Talk to your therapist about the most appropriate length of treatment for you.

Effects of cold...
  • causes local vasoconstriction, decreasing blood flow. With injured tissue, this means decreased inflammation, swelling, and bleeding
  • pain is decreased by cold either blocking pain transmission or acting as a counterirritant
  • muscle spasm is decreased
  • brief cold has a stimulating effect
  • prolonged applications are sedative and cause a reactive vasodilation; smooth muscle lining the blood vessels after approximately 10 minutes will no longer hold the constriction and will then dilate
Avoid cold if you have...
  • vascular disease; vasoconstrictive effects of cold could further compromise an already nutritionally derived area
  • peripheral neuropathy i.e.; as with diabetes and multiple sclerosis
  • a hypersensitivity to cold or are already chilled
  • sensory nerve impairment or if you have taken analgesic drugs
  • Raynaud’s syndrome
  • acute rheumatoid arthritis

Contrast hydrotherapy is a warm or hot application followed by a cool or cold application. This causes alternating vasodilation and vasoconstriction of the blood vessels. A common ratio of time for each application of heat and cold is 3:1 - three minutes of hot, one minute of cold. This process may be repeated several times for a stronger effect on local circulation. Contrast applications should always end with cold, encouraging vasoconstriction instead of congestion. Sacred Stone Massage Therapy takes full advantage of this method. The continuous process of vasodilation and vasoconstriction results in increased flushing rates within the body and optimum healing. At home, one of the best full body treatments you can do is to have a contrast shower; three minutes hot followed by one minute of cold repeated three times. One of the best full body treatments is a contrast shower, three minutes hot followed by one minute of cold repeated three times.

Effects of contrast...
  • helps move metabolites, decrease edema and increase tissue healing
  • usually used for treating subacute conditions
  • contrast treatments are the most potent in hydrotherapy
Avoid contrast if you have...
  • acute conditions
  • decreased skin sensitivity
  • vascular pathologies
  • a hypersensitivity to cold or are already chilled


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