Physicians and physical therapists also recognize the value of a massage water experience as an ideal environment for rehabilitation therapy. Muscle pain can be eased, fatigue overcome and stiffness and soreness relieved when relaxing in a hydro massage (jetted) tub because body temperatures rise, which causes blood vessels to dilate. This results in increased circulation and blood flow, which accelerates the body’s natural healing properties. The reason the healing process is increased is that lactic acid and other toxins are replaced with oxygen, In addition, endorphins – which are released during the process – serve as the body’s natural pain killers.
In the past, such a hydromassage was limited to the bathtub. Today, new shower body sprays can deliver a variety of hydromassage therapies as well.
Relaxing in a bubbling tub bath 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. New technological innovations have overcome the troublesome reality of “air baths” where the air was cold: BainUltra’s Geysair heats the air so there is a true feeling of warmth when the air bubbles touch the skin.
Heat has always been used in various forms to provide therapeutic benefits. 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. This type of dry heat is used in today’s saunas.
The application of heat widens blood vessels and increases blood flow to the skin. Therefore, it relaxes superficial muscles, decreases muscle spasms and reduces stiffness of the joints. Some research has also shown it can block pain receptors for some individuals.
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. As the blood flows, local tissue metabolism is enhanced. The improved blood flow lowers concentration of pain-producing toxic metabolites. This has led to the greater popularity of steam shower systems.
The space provided for showering and the shape of bathtubs are also changing.
In addition to covering water experiences and therapies, a dramatic new collection of bathtubs was seen at last year’s EuroCucina Fair in Milan that enhances the visual experience of the bather.
Freestanding bathtubs are popular but they are problematic – there is no place to stow a book, or keep a bar of soap handy. European bathrooms combine the sense of a freestanding bathtub with some type of attached partial platform that fits against the wall or in a corner.
Innovations in surfacing materials are being driven by printing system upgrades and computer-driven pattern possibilities.
Natural marbles and granites, solid surface products and quartz-based surfaces are often specified for bathrooms. Ceramic tile and natural stones are also popular choices and well understood by practicing designers.
However, in the surfacing industry, the ability to use inkjet printing technology, partnered with computer-generated pattern variations, is now creating surfaces that look and feel like natural products, and that are consistent, easy to care for and simpler to install.
In addition to pattern, textures on surfaces are also moving into the “3D world.” Contrasting layers of thin and thick, bent or warped and pulled or stretched formats create dramatic landscapes for light to play with across floors, walls or other important surfaces.
An interesting design trend is that 30- to 40-year-old households seem comfortable with man-made materials that are inspired by nature’s elegance – far more so than their older counterparts. They appreciate the beauty of pattern, texture and variety created by digitized designs.
They also do not feel bound to keep the products they select for a long time: If it is portable, they know they can sell it on eBay if they grow tired of it. If it is a permanent installation and a new innovation catches their eye, they expect to be able to simply resurface over the old.
Combining this younger consumers’ acceptance of man-made materials with immense changes in how ceramic materials are finished offers us a palette of affordable and durable ceramic products that are excellent alternatives to natural stone.
Additionally, oversized “everything” seems to be popular – even in small bathrooms! Large light fixtures with fabric shades, large monolithic tall cabinet doors, large patterned wall coverings and large-format (yet thin) ceramic tiles are all hot right now.