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Focus on Spa Therapies: Hydrotherapy Part II

With the 1889 publication of My Water Cure, German Priest, Sebastian Kneipp, gained worldwide recognition for his work with hydrotherapy. Kneipp’s Five Pillars of "regular style of life for body, mind and soul,” are the basis of Naturopathy in the U.S. Hydrotherapy.

Kneipp created more than 100 Hydrotherapy treatments, including washings, wraps, affusions, baths and journeys in nature.

Washings: Washings are the simplest and mildest treatment. The body is covered with a film of water using a washcloth. Additives, such as herbs, are often added to the water to create a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Wraps: A Kneipp wrap envelops a body part with wet and dry cloths that are either hot or cold. Effects are achieved through temperature, length of application and additives. Increased circulation promotes the removal of metabolic wastes and increases the oxygen supply.

Affusions: Affusions precisely regulate the direction of the water stream on the body. A high-pressure affusion (such as a Scotch Hose) delivers a strong mechanical stimulus. The treatment is used with cold, tempered or warm water and can be delivered to the knee; thigh; leg; back; face or full body.

Baths: Kneipp baths, whether partial or full, are usually combined with herbal additives. A brush bath is a combination of a full-body brushing and a warm bath, which intensifies the treatment the general warming of the body and through the effects of the hydrostatic pressure.

Some of Kneipp's more esoteric treatments include:

Dew Walking—Walking barefoot on dew-moistened grass to promote circulation and strengthen the immune system.

Water Treading—"Stork"-walking in a body of water filled below the knee, such as large basin; bathtub; fountain; lake; or ocean to strengthen veins, induce sleep and stimulate metabolism

Snow Walking—Walking barefoot in snow from a few seconds up to three minutes to stimulate the system and promote circulation.

Benefits of Kneipp Hydrotherapy

The effects of Kneipp hydrotherapeutic treatments are vast, and have been documented through decades of scientific research at the Sebastian-Kneipp-Schule. Benefits of Kneipp hydrotherapy include relaxation, detoxification stimulation of circulation and activation of the immune system.

Kneipp therapy breaks down the specific effects:

  • Local Reaction—Similar to reactions caused by cold compresses; used for acute trauma or inflammation, or hot packs/hay sacks used for local muscular hypertension.
  • Segmental Response—Internal organs can be influenced by an automatic reflex from the skin, called the "cuti-visceral reflex."
  • Consensual Response—Parts of the body not treated directly can react in the same way as the part being treated.
  • Automatic Response—Improves general state of well-being.
  • Immune System Response—Alternating treatments and strengthening exercises "toughens up" and improves the immune system.
  • Psychological Response—Temperature and aroma stimuli have a direct influence on the central nervous system and can change the mental state.

Home Care Program

Kneipp believed self-responsibility is the cornerstone of health. Lifestyle and health education are the most important part of Kneipp's doctrine. Many Kneipp hydrotherapy treatments can and should be repeated at home. Kneipp hydrotherapy treatments use ordinary water, which is transformed into "healing" water through the appropriate knowledge and application. 

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