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Hot and cold water has been used for centuries to bring healing to the body.

By Staci Schefka

Have you ever sat in a sweat-inducing sauna and then followed it up with a cool shower? Did you feel amazing afterward? If so, you were experiencing the power of hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy is the therapeutic use of hot and cold water to aid in the health and healing of the body. Hydrotherapy uses water in all forms—liquid, steam, and ice. Other modern examples of hydrotherapy include the fever bath, hot foot bath, sitz bath, hot and cold packs, or steam inhalation.

History of Hydrotherapy

From ancient times, mankind has experienced the healing properties of water. However, the Greeks were the first to really promote the use of thermal therapy or hydrotherapy with the use of public baths and hot springs. The Greek philosopher Hippocrates wrote one of the earliest works on the therapeutic effect of hot and cold baths to treat disease.

Vincenz Priessnitz (1799–1851) is said to be the

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  1. Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, May 24 and June 8, 1806.

  2. W. A. Ruble, MD, “Sanitarium Treatment of Influenza,” Life & Health, May 1919.

  3. Heat shock proteins and immunity: application of hyperthermia for immunomodulation,NIH,, Dec. 2009.

  4. Hydrothermotherapy in prevention and treatment of mild to moderate cases of COVID-19,” NIH,, Nov. 16, 2020.

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