Hydrotherapy (water therapy) is one of the oldest treatment methodologies known. The Ancient Greeks took baths to help heal injuries, and water therapy was widely employed by ancient Japanese and Chinese cultures. In the 19th century, the practice of hydrotherapy was re-popularized by a Bavarian monk, Father Sebastian Kneipp.
Numerous methods of applying hydrotherapy now exist, including baths, saunas, wraps, packs, and douches. Hydrotherapies work by exploiting the bodyís reaction to warm and cold water temperatures and various water pressures. The water stimulates the bodyís nerves, which carry signals deeper into the body, where the signals are instrumental in stimulating the immune system, invigorating circulation and digestion, encouraging blood flow, and lessening sensitivity to pain.
Generally, heat quiets and soothes the body, slowing down the activity of internal organs. In contrast, cold stimulates and invigorates, increasing the activity of internal organs.
Constitutional hydrotherapy consists of alternating hot and cold wet towels on a patient. Recent studies suggest that constitutional hydrotherapy may help breast cancer patients by stimulating monocytes (a type of white blood cell and heat shock proteins (Hsp), both of which help stimulate the immune system.