Hydrotherapy Gaining Steam 1

Boulder’s resurgence in the age-old approach to healing and recovery with water

There is no denying the stress relief that comes from a long soak in a hot tub. With a deep sigh, the body relaxes, and troubles seem to melt away.

Water has been used for healing just about as long as there have been people with ailments. Its therapeutic applications are well documented all the way back to ancient Roman, Japanese and Greek civilizations when a soak was often prescribed for sickness by a medical practitioner. And not just in hot water.

The health benefits of cold water immersion have been recorded and relied upon for thousands of years. Cold plunge pools typically maintain a temperature around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so the water will quickly numb the nerves around joints and muscles upon entry and release endorphins—along with their analgesic properties—to soothe joint and muscle stress. Cold water also stimulates blood circulation and jump-starts the immune system by causing the release of cell proteins designed to help fight viruses and harmful bacteria.

There was a resurgence in the use of hydrotherapy in the 18th and 19th centuries around the world, but the latter part of the 20th century saw the mainstream use of the practice largely diminish, particularly in the United States. Its health benefits have certainly not been forgotten, however, and recent growth in popularity, especially among athletes, has brought new focus to in-home products. Health-minded individuals are installing devices at home to capitalize on the lasting physical effects from exposure to heat, whether in a dry sauna, hot tub or steam shower, immediately followed by complete immersion in cold water —even if as brief as 30 seconds.

“We do have customers ask us about this quite a bit,” said Terry Seidel of the Boulder-based pool and spa specialists, Mr. Pool. “Contrast spas are one of the fastest growing options, providing a hot and cold combination for recovery, inflammation reduction or just daily therapy.”

Mr. Pool has been installing custom pools and spas in Boulder since Seidel opened shop in 1978. Seidel says that was an era in Boulder when there were more public options for hydrotherapy, namely communal bathing, and hot tub use. He and General Manager Forrest Walterson have actively tried to revitalize the use of hydrotherapy by promoting the healing effects of water, hot or cold, and helping educate the community about the benefits of saunas, steam showers and wooden hot tubs with cold plunges.

“Water is life,” said Seidel. “It is such a pleasure to help customers maximize the benefits of it since, in many cases, they aren’t just physical but also spiritual.”