Health Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Heart Surgery Patients
For centuries, people have used water as a way to calm and de-stress the body, relieve pain and improve overall well-being.
Generally referred to as hydrotherapy, it can involve anything from soaking in a warm tub to relieve discomfort or using cold water to reduce inflammation. Although “hydrotherapy” can also include inhaling steam, using foot baths and placing a hot compress on an aching head, it more commonly refers to immersing the entire body in a hot tub, spa or pool.
As for me, I’m a “fish out of water”. Hot or cold, I’m always up for getting wet. I like to swim, surf, scuba, snorkel, wakeboard and simply sit in water. Water rejuvenates me. Here’s a picture of Ethan, my son, and I playing in a lake.
People who are immersed in water are naturally buoyant and weigh 90 percent less than they do while on land, thus, being in water can provide a gentle and safe way to exercise that does not place a lot of weight or stress on the muscles and joints. In addition, hydrotherapy in warm or hot water helps to open up the blood vessels, which can increase the blood flow to a sore back or sprained ankle. Hydrotherapy has been used successfully to help people with arthritis, sleep disorders, sports-related injuries and it can also help to improve digestion, detoxify the body and help the internal organs work as efficiently as possible.
Hydrotherapy and heart patients
Since sitting in a warm tub and/or exercising in a spa or pool can be so beneficial to so many people, it is only natural that heart patients might wonder if hydrotherapy is an appropriate option for them. While people who have undergone heart valve or other cardiovascular surgery should always consult with their cardiologist prior to starting any type of exercise or other health-related program, studies have found that hydrotherapy can be an appropriate consideration for heart patients.
Water exercise better than land-based activities
According to a report by the University of California San Francisco titled “Use of Aquatic Therapy for Adults with Chronic Heart Failure: An Evidence-Based Review,” water’s unique properties—including resistance and its changeable temperature and buoyancy—offers heart patients a safe and supportive environment when done as part of skilled physical therapy. Overall, the report concluded that aquatic exercise can typically be recommended for people with mild to moderate CHF and that it not only helps them physically, but also improves their quality of life.
Why H2O is good for the heart
As The National Institute of Health notes, hydrotherapy was once considered to be potentially harmful to heart patients because of something called “increased venous return” that is caused by the water’s hydrostatic pressure. However, as the report explains, researchers now realize that heart function tends to get better when the person is immersed in water. This is due primarily to the decrease in the heart rate combined with the boost in early diastolic filling.
Adding hydrotherapy into the daily routine
Some heart patients might be able to find a hydrotherapy programs that offer therapeutic programs designed especially for cardiac rehabilitation patients. In other cases, people may try hydrotherapy at home. For people who do not have a pool, investing in a hot tub or spa is an excellent and more cost-effective alternative; for instance, HotTubWorks offers a wonderful selection of portable hot tubs and spas. For heart patients who are unsure of being in a larger body of water, the smaller hot tub can be a more relaxing and safe place to practice hydrotherapy, and the water can be adjusted to whichever temperature their cardiologist recommends.
Have you used hydrotherapy to help your health? If so, leave a comment here.
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.