The Benefits of Hydrotherapy and FIR Saunas

Hydrotherapy is a commonly used form of care at NUNM’s Lair Hill Health Center—one that many patients may have never heard of, but have used on their own at home. Ever take a warm bath to help relax your muscles? You were using a form of hydrotherapy.

Table and towels being used for hydrotherapy treatments

What is hydrotherapy and how is it used?

Hydrotherapy is any use of water for therapeutic purposes. This could be drinking water to prevent dehydration, taking a mineral bath at home, or even walking barefoot in the morning dew. Water can be used as a powerful tool to help a patient get well or stay well. And although some simple forms of hydrotherapy are common, the Lair Hill Health Center uses unique hydrotherapeutic treatments to target specific acute or chronic ailments, as well.

For example, applying towels of varying temperatures to increase circulation of blood and lymph can help regulate the immune system. To do this, we use physiotherapy equipment in the form of pads placed on the back to stimulate areas of the spine that control organs of digestion and elimination. This form of hydrotherapy is known as Constitutional Hydrotherapy, and is helpful for patients with a wide variety of conditions, such as pneumonia. We’ve seen a lot of success with this technique, even for patients with repeated bouts of pneumonia. Paired with diathermy (another naturopathic modality) in an overall naturopathic treatment plan, many pneumonia patients recover well.

Benefits of Far Infrared Saunas

One of the hydrotherapeutic treatments we use frequently at Lair Hill Health Center is Far Infrared (FIR) saunas. FIR saunas have benefits similar to traditional high heat saunas, such as relieving muscular stiffness and joint pain, increasing circulation, detoxification, and producing a relaxation response. Patients who aren’t good candidates for traditional saunas—like those with poor circulation, diabetes or certain heart conditions—are shown to benefit from FIR sauna use. Please keep in mind that patients with these types of conditions should only use a FIR sauna under a doctor’s supervision.

FIR saunas penetrate the body to a deeper level than traditional saunas, and cause warming of the connective tissue and muscles. They stimulate the body to produce nitric oxide, which causes a greater perfusion of blood to the organs and tissues. Many different diseases can be treated with FIR saunas:

  • Research shows promising benefits in patients with congestive heart failure and arrhythmias.
  • Diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy may benefit from the nitric oxide production and increased circulation.
  • Studies on breast cancer cell lines have also shown that higher levels of NO (nitric oxide) and NOS (nitric oxide synthase) are associated with lower incidence of metastasis and improved response to chemotherapeutic agents.

More commonly, patients are referred for FIR sauna for detoxification purposes. Both FIR sauna and traditional saunas have been used to help patients detoxify through sweating. Research supports the idea that eliminating heavy metals and some chemicals through perspiration is potentially more effective than through urine or stool.

Explore the benefits of hydrotherapy

Interested in making a hydrotherapy appointment at NUNM’s Lair Hill Health Center? Have your doctor contact the clinic to make a referral, or make an appointment for a hydrotherapy pre-screen to ensure these treatments are right for you.

Author: Gaia Mather , ND
Dr. Mather is an assistant professor at NUNM focusing on hydrotherapy.