By Kerry Knight
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Soaking in warm water is an ancient remedy in dealing with pain. There’s a very good reason why this practice has stood the test of time. It appears warm water therapy works wonders on all kinds of musculoskeletal complaints, including fibromyalgia and low back pain. Our ancestors were wise in many ways, turns out.
Bruce Becker, MD, Director of the National Aquatics and Sports Medicine Institute at Washington State University in Spokane, writes, “The research shows our ancestors got it right. It makes you feel better. It makes the joints looser. It reduces pain and it seems to have a somewhat prolonged effect that goes beyond the period of immersion.”
So why does soaking in warm water help with pain? First, it reduces the force of gravity that’s compressing the joint, offering 360 degree support. It can also decrease swelling and inflammation, while increasing circulation.
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“Aquatic immersion has profound biologic effects, extending across essentially all homeostatic systems,” asserts Dr. Becker. “These effects are both immediate and delayed, and they allow water to be used with therapeutic efficacy for a great variety of rehabilitative problems. Aquatic therapies are beneficial in the management of patients with musculoskeletal problems, neurologic problems, cardiopulmonary pathology, and other conditions. In addition, the margin of therapeutic safety is wider than that of almost any other treatment milieu. Knowledge of these biological effects can aid the skilled clinicians creating an optimal treatment plan through appropriate modification of aquatic activities, immersion temperatures, and treatment duration.”
How long should you soak? Dr. Becker says patients he’s studied seem to reach a maximum benefit after about 20 minutes. And make sure you drink water before, during and afterward to stay well-hydrated. (Yes, I know, having a relaxing glass of wine is nice to sip upon while soaking in the tub. But you shouldn’t overdo it, as alcohol will also dehydrate your tissues. I usually carry a glass of wine and a big plastic bottle of water with me for my luxuriating soak.
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Another important factor is the temperature of the water. Water temperatures between 92°F and 100°F degrees is a healthy range. If you have cardiovascular problems, beware of water that’s too hot because that can put undue stress on the heart. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says anything over 104°F degrees is considered dangerous for everyone. Having a thermometer close by would be a good precaution.
Warm water is good for relaxing, and it’s also good for moving in. Warm water stimulates blood flow to stiff muscles and frozen joints, making a warm tub an ideal place to do some gentle stretching and self-massage, especially if you need to relax some knotted muscles, sometimes referred to as “trigger points.”
To ease low back pain, trap a tennis ball between the small of your back and the bottom of the tub, then lean into it and roll it against knotted muscles. You can also do this with two tennis balls; one for your lower back near the bottom of the tub, and one for your upper back against the slope. Oftentimes with standard “tennis ball massage,” some people find the full weight of their bodies pushing a tennis ball against a hard surface provides too much pressure and consequently they’re unable to get relief. But remember, you’re more buoyant in the bath, which gives you more control so you can better regulate the amount of pressure the tennis balls are exerting against your trigger points.
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Another suggestion: go to Amazon.com and look at the wide range of self-massage balls and similar products that are available ... Mandala Yoga Massage Balls, Rhino Balls, Porcupine Sensory Massage Balls, Massage Peanut, Body Bongers Massage Tool, Tiger Tail Ball Massager, Chinese Baoding Balls, etc. There are hundreds products, many of which are waterproof. Now you can have your own set of colorful bath "toys" to have fun in the tub with.
A good stretch for your lower back and hamstrings is to extend your legs out in front of you, hold your arms over your head, and slowly reach down, trying to touch your toes. Even you can’t reach your toes, try to hold on to your knees, shins, whatever. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. (Keep your head above the water or momentarily hold your breath if your head’s underneath the water has you stretch). For more stretching ideas you can do in your tub, check out the website, Bath Tub Yoga. The increased range of flexibility lasts even after you get out, says Ann Vincent, MD, Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Fibromyalgia Clinic in Rochester, MI. “Patients report that soaking in a warm bath and stretching after that seems to help.”
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How do you find a good soaking tub? Tub King, Inc., has a complete collection of deep-soaking tubs. They’re all made with a cast iron exterior and a rich porcelain finish on the inside for bathing. They include Slipper Tubs with the high back and Dual-Ended tubs with slopes on both ends of the tub. There are even Double Slippers. These are all deep tubs that allow you to soak in warm water that covers the body while reclining in luxury.
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Did I mention our exceptionally hydrotherapeutic Walk-in Tubs? We have models that have air jets and also models that have both air and water jets, plus an in-line heater. Talk about getting hydro-massaged! It’s like having your own personal Jacuzzi in your bathroom.
Don’t you think it’s time to reward your body? It has taken good care of you through the years. Why not take better care of it when you really need it?
In this article, I talked about the benefits of soaking, self-massage and stretching in a deep body of warm water. I cited scientific evidence from the field of hydrotherapy that has well-documented many of the benefits of being in water. I also discussed some self-massage techniques and devices you can use in the bathtub as well as stretches. Finally, I gave a brief overview of the various tubs that are ideal for self-hydrotherapy sessions, especially the deep cast iron and porcelain and Walk-in Tubs that Tub King carries.
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Alan and Kerry Knight are the owners of Tub King, Inc., and SeniorBathtub.com in Jacksonville, Florida. Together they have many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. Their companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. If you’d like to contact them, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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