The Arthritis Foundation recognizes the benefits of hydro massage and warm water exercise to help relieve arthritic pain. Body weight is reduced by approximately 90% in a water environment, relieving pressure on joints and muscles, and providing a safe and gentle environment for warm water exercise.
Relaxing in a bubbling air bathtub simulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” chemical, giving the bather a sense of renewal and rejuvenation. The warm water and soothing massage also can help relieve anxiety and relax tense muscles as thousands of air bubbles burst against the skin, increasing blood circulation along the surface of the skin.
It is worth adding that a warm, relaxing bath with or without any type of bubbles is often recommended by many doctors to improve the quality of an individual’s sleep. Relaxing in a hot tub for 10 minutes, approximately 90 minutes before bed time, causes the body’s internal thermostat to pull the temperature down, enabling the person to drift into a deeper, more relaxing sleep.
Heat has always been used in various forms for therapeutic use. Sunlight, heated sand and heated water were initially used as an effective means of therapy for ailments and pain. Early users of heat therapy also obtained heat from hot stones and coals, open fire and irons. The first scientific inquiries into the use of thermotherapy were conducted in the early 19th century. Heat therapy is the foundation of steam (wet) and sauna (dry) therapies.
The application of heat widens blood vessels and increases blood flow to the skin. Heat also opens the pores in the skin. Therefore, it relaxes superficial muscles, decreases muscle spasms and reduces stiffness of the joints, as well as allows impurities to be flushed from the pores of the skin.
Moist heat appears to be more effective in treating pain than dry heat , as the moisture allows the heat to penetrate more deeply into the muscle. Therefore, thermotherapy is frequently used in combination with other therapies such as hydrotherapy (jetted water therapy) and cryotherapy (cold water therapy). These two therapies are sometimes used to reduce inflammation before thermotherapy is introduced to increase blood flow to the muscles.
As the blood flows, local tissue metabolism is enhanced. The improved blood flow lowers concentration of pain-producing toxic metabolites. This combination offers relief from pain.
- Dry Heat (Sauna). Saunas have as long a history as the steam bath. The 2,000-year-old custom has been enjoyed by the ancient Greeks and the North American Indians, although the Finnish version (a country in which there are more saunas than automobiles) is the most popular today.
The sauna is a high-temperature (160 degree to 200 degree), low humidity (8% to 15%), restorative experience for the body. Its heat produces perspiration, which cleans the skin and liver, stimulates circulation and reduces muscular and nervous tension, as well as heightening mental alertness.
- Wet Heat (Steam Bath). Steam baths are yet another way to provide a relaxing yet refreshing spa experience. Referred to as “Turkish bathing,” steam baths were reportedly used by Hippocrates (the Father of Medicine) in treatments for fever in 395 B.C. A steam head releases steam into an enclosed space. The moist, high heat invigorates the body’s system and cleanses the skin by opening the pores and flushing out dirt. The normal steam bath lasts for 10 to 20 minutes in an enclosed environment, where the humidity level reaches nearly 100%.
Designers who combine their space planning expertise with keen knowledge about the physical heath benefits as well as emotional reactions to various water-related therapies will be better able to identify the client’s expectations and then “match” the therapy to the bather. By carefully planning the fixture and surfacing details of the room, the “spa experience” will be as invigorating or relaxing as possible within the limits of the room size and the project budget.
Author’s Note: Bathrooms highlighted in this article are featured in Kasmar Designer Baths, Volume VIII. For more information, go to www.Kasmarpub.com.