Can Hydrotherapy Help Combat Stress?

There are many mentions of the help soaking in a hot tub can give to help to remove stress throughout this document, but for completeness it is being covered as a topic in its own right.

If times of stress leave you coiled in knots of tension, a soothing soak in a hot tub will benefit more than just your sore muscles. That’s because new research is proving what old wives tales have claimed all along—warm water is one of the best stress relievers there is.

Soaking in a hot tub reduces stress and anxiety and relaxes your body and mind. In addition to the soothing atmosphere that often surrounds spas in your garden, warm water also offers physiological benefits, allowing you to distress and potentially improve your health at the same time.

Immersion in warm water raises your body’s internal temperature. This causes dilated blood vessels, which improves circulation and crates the optimum environment in the body for relaxation.

Scientifically Backed Stress Relief

1. Decrease Blood Pressure – Hot tubs can help improve circulation and lower blood pressure. “Immersion in warm or neutral water,” Dr Becker of Washington State University in the USA says, “tends to decrease blood pressure and decrease the workload of the heart…by dilating blood vessels and reducing peripheral vascular resistance. By decreasing that resistance, it makes less work for the heart in circulating blood.”

2. Boosts Cognitive Activity – This warm-water immersion simultaneously increases blood flow inside the brain, too. This boosts mental acuity, cognitive function and may even benefit Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. “Whether those effects are long-term isn’t yet known,” Becker says. “But things happen to the central nervous system which create the overall effect of relaxation.”

3. Enhances Creative Capacity – Dr Bruce Becker of Washington State University in the USA has undertaken studies which indicate regular hot tub use radically diminishes stress triggers of the central nervous system. When this occurs, the speed at which your brain processes information increases along with brain connectivity, leading to potential improvement of creativity and memory.

4. Lowers Stress Levels – The stress-relieving effects of hot tub soaks don’t end when you step out of the water. Stress levels tend to stay lower in people who regularly engage in hydrotherapy. Becker points to studies of war veterans that evaluated post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers’ use of hot tubs. Preliminary findings indicate PTSD sufferers are calmer and exhibit fewer hair-trigger responses after hot tub hydrotherapy.

When we’re stressed, we’re often short of dopamine – this is a neurotransmitter that connects us to the brain’s reward and pleasure centres and helps us to stay motivated. We need dopamine – it should be released by parasympathetic nervous system, in particular to help deal with the consequences of excessive stress on the body. But if you’re under a lot of pressure, or in physical pain, you may find that you don’t feel that motivated as your dopamine levels drop. Research has found that immersion in warm water, such as in a hot tub, helps the body to release dopamine, providing the response it needs to cope with periods of stress.