What is Hydromassage? Is It Effective?
You may have heard about hydromassage before – it’s even likely that your local gym, spa, or chiropractor offers hydromassage in their facilities. However, it’s hard to tell what hydromassage is, if it’s effective, and what it can help by just watching it or hearing about it.
What is hydromassage? Is it effective? Hydromassage is a form of water massage in which high-pressure jets of hot water are moved up and down the body to massage muscles and improve circulation. Hydromassage has been considered effective by many that undergo the treatment. Also, several studies support its effectiveness.
To help you understand all the important information out there about hydromassage, and maybe even decide if the treatment is right for you, we’ll walk you through exactly what hydromassage is, why it’s said to be effective, and even outline the multitude of benefits it can provide. Sit back and relax – it’s time to talk about hydromassage.
What is Hydromassage? Is It Effective?
Picture this: you walk into your local gym to get through your workout routine and notice that your gym now offers a service called “hydromassage.” Maybe you even see some patrons lying down on beds, sitting in lounges, or relaxing in hot pools of water and wonder just what they’re doing.
You wouldn’t be the only one who’s curiosity is piqued when you see people lying down on these beds or relaxing in hot pools of water.
So, just what is this type of massage? How does it work? Is it effective? Let’s find out.
An Overview of Hydromassage
As you read previously, hydromassage is a form of water massage treatment. During this treatment, high-pressure jets of hot water are moved up and down to various parts of the body to massage muscles, improve circulation, and provide a variety of other benefits.
The process is relatively simple to understand, but there are several things to know about hydromassage before deciding whether you should dive in and give it a try.
For example, there are different types of hydromassage and the equipment used can vary. Also, there are a few things to take into consideration before undergoing hydromassage. Finally, since there are various places that offer this therapy, you will have to pick what venue will work best for you.
Hydromassage Beds and Lounges
While many immediately associate hydromassage with being wet or being in a hot tub (half of its name is “hydro” after all), hydromassage doesn’t always involve being submerged in water.
Oftentimes, hydromassage is performed through a bed or a lounge, where those getting the treatment remain fully clothed while they lie down or sit on the unit. This method is often referred to as “dry hydrotherapy.”
These self-contained devices feature a soft, padded waterproof top that users can lie down or sit on. Below the waterproof top, powerful jets of hot water stream up and provide a massage-like experience to the user lying on top of it.
You can think of this method as similar to a traditional massage chair. When you sit in a massage chair, you don’t sit right on the nodules that move to massage you. Instead, you sit on the top layer of the padding of the chair, and the nodules massage your muscles through it.
A Beauty Healthy notes that Planet Fitness, a chain of gyms across the country, often have hydromassage beds and lounges in their facilities. This is a wonderful perk for their members.
Most of these beds and lounges have a screen attached so that users can start their massage, see where the jets are moving on the body at any given time, and see how much time their massage has left.
Users can also essentially be in full control of their hydromassage with these screens, depending on what controls are offered. Users can control the massage by choosing from and adjusting different options like:
- Jet pressure
- Jet speed
- Jet motion
- Holding jets in certain areas
- Jet temperature
Hydromassage beds and lounges are popular for numerous reasons. One of the most prominent is that users don’t have to get undressed at all to partake.
In “dry hydrotherapy” massage beds, users get to stay completely dry while they undergo treatment (although they may sweat just a little).
Additionally, hydromassage therapy sessions typically only last about 10 minutes per session. This allows users to quickly receive therapeutic benefits without sacrificing too much time.
Hydromassage can also be offered in pools. Unlike “dry hydrotherapy,” hydromassage pools involve the users getting both undressed and partially submerged in water.
Hydromassage pools are based on the same idea as hydromassage beds and lounges – high-pressure jets of hot water are used to massage the body. The difference is the user feels the actual water streams on their body.
You’ve probably experienced something like a hydromassage pool before – just think of any experiences in hot tubs or bathtubs that have jets you can sit back on.
The difference between hydromassage pools and traditional jacuzzies or hot tubs is that hydromassage pools often use hotter water and more powerful, targeted jets.
With this type of hydromassage, users will most likely have to change into swimwear. In some instances, users are allowed and encouraged to have their hydromassage without any clothing on to reap the full benefits of the massage. Clothing guidelines differ by facility and pool.
According to Good Spa Guide, at some facilities, a hydromassage pool may be one in a series of others. In this instance, each pool may offer a different type of massage. Therefore, users may be instructed to move from pool to pool in a certain order to complete their hydromassage.
In other facilities, hydromassage may be completed in just one pool, and like the hydromassage beds and lounges, users can often choose from a variety of options to customize their massage.
Typically, users can adjust jet stream pressure, speed, and motion. However, other options may also be offered.
For example, facilities may offer mineral hydromassage, where mineral salts are added to the pool. Some facilities may also offer aromatherapy hydromassage, where aromatic oils are added to the pool during the massage.
Because hydromassage pool users need to get undressed and dressed again and may need to move from pool to pool, this method of hydromassage tends to take longer than hydromassage in beds or lounges.
Is Hydromassage Effective?
Once those curious about hydromassage learn more about what the treatment is, their next question is often, “is it effective?”
While there is not a lot of traditional scientific evidence on the effectiveness of hydromassage, most users that undergo this treatment feel that it makes them feel healthier.
Not only is hydromassage considered effective, but it provides quite a few benefits. We’ll discuss those benefits in depth later.
According to Aetna, there has been an unpublished study cited that aimed to gauge the results and effectiveness of using AquaMED, a hydromassage therapy, on 16 men and women.
The men and women in the study were aged 23 to 80 years – some who were healthy and some who experienced chronic pain. The study focused on the effectiveness of hydrotherapy in reducing stress and pain in the participants.
When hydromassage treatment was concluded, statistically significant changes were noted in both mean heart rate and diastolic blood pressure of the participants.
When the participants were subjectively evaluated after the hydromassage treatment, every subject who experienced chronic pain, as well as 4 out of 6 of the healthy subjects, expressed that they felt much more relaxed. The subjects also noted that the level of pain was reduced by more than half.
Aetna notes that it’s important to remember this study was unpublished, and scientific evidence of the effectiveness of hydromassage is limited.
However, Aetna also notes that the positive benefits of hydromassage have been asserted by many websites, organizations, and other entities, like Sidmar Manufacturing, Inc., the Washington State Department of Labor, and the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Things to Consider Before Getting Hydromassage Treatment
If hydromassage sounds like something you’re interested in or like a treatment that could benefit you, that’s great! Many hydromassage users have enjoyed their experiences and reported benefits.
However, like with most spa treatments, there are some things to consider before getting hydromassage treatment.
Before you get hydromassage treatment, check clothing requirements with the facility you plan on attending.
Clothing requirements often depend on if you’re getting “dry hydrotherapy” in a hydromassage bed or lounge, or if you’re getting hydromassage in a pool.
Typically, hydromassage beds and lounges allow you to get the treatment fully clothed. Hydromassage pools typically have users wear swimwear, but some facilities allow users to not wear clothing at all.
One of the reasons hydromassage has so many benefits is because it uses heat in conjunction with water pressure.
Hydromassage can be hot! Even if you’re undergoing hydromassage therapy on a bed or lounge, the process can make you feel overly warm or hot.
The water used in hydromassage can be anywhere from 90 degrees Fahrenheit up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because of that, you may want to bring a towel or two with you when you decide to undergo hydromassage – even if you’re lying on a bed or lounging in a chair.
You may want a towel to dab off the sweat that accumulates on your body, especially on your forehead and the rest of your face. The accumulation of sweat can become a bit uncomfortable.
If you’re uncomfortable in situations that get very warm and often very hot, you may want to reconsider getting hydromassage.
Eating or Drinking Beforehand
Dr. Craig Singer, a chiropractor for over 20 years at USA Health & Therapy, notes that hydromassage is a rigorous treatment.
Because of that, if you’ve recently eaten a meal or had alcohol, you’ll probably want to skip your hydromassage treatment or wait till a later time.
Eating a meal or consuming alcohol before hydromassage can make users feel uncomfortable and even sick during or after the treatment.
Dr. Craig Singer also notes that almost anyone can enjoy all that hydromassage therapy provides. However, there are some instances in which users will not want to engage in hydromassage.
Users experiencing these health conditions will want to skip hydromassage unless approved by their doctor:
- Pregnant women
- Frail or fragile people
- Those who have recently had surgery or an injury
- Those recovering from an injury
- Those with pre-existing heart conditions
If you’re interested in hydromassage, but one of the above conditions applies to you, make sure to ask your doctor if you can partake in this method of therapy.
Hydromassage Can Be Loud
You may have already deduced this fact, considering hydromassage involves high-pressure jet streams of water.
Either way, hydromassage can be loud.
Because of this, the facility you go to for hydromassage may offer headphones or earplugs.
However, you may want to bring your own pair of headphones or earplugs to a hydromassage just in case, especially if you’re sensitive to loud noises.
Where to Find Hydromassage
We’ve mentioned that hydromassage is often offered at spas, gyms, and chiropractic facilities, but are there other places hydromassage is offered? Where can you find hydromassage treatment?
You may find hydromassage offered at:
- Planet Fitness gyms
- Other gym and fitness facilities
- Massage therapy centers
- Chiropractic offices
- Some physician and physical therapy offices
- Hydromassage facilities or “water massage centers”
- Salons and day spas
- Some malls and airports
The best way to find where hydromassage in your area is offered is to do an online search.
However, you can also ask around.
Ask those you know, the employees at your local gym, your physician, your chiropractor, your spa consultant, or even your trusted massage therapist if they know of anywhere hydromassage is offered in your area.
Additionally, you may even be able to purchase your own hydromassage bed, chair, or pool, if you have the budget to allow for it.
There are many hydromassage vendors, but even Amazon offers a Hydromassage bed for purchase – although it comes with a pretty hefty price tag of nearly $9,000.00.
Benefits of Hydromassage
We previously mentioned that hydromassage comes with a variety of benefits.
What exactly are the benefits of hydromassage? Who can especially benefit from hydromassage? Let’s take a look.
Who Can Benefit from Hydromassage?
Dr. Craig Singer and Aetna both outline who can benefit from hydromassage.
According to the study referenced by Aetna, even those who are healthy can benefit from hydromassage. Also, according to the study, those who experience chronic pain can experience benefits from hydromassage.
Dr. Craig Singer outlines that those with other and more specific health conditions can also benefit from hydromassage.
Those who can benefit from hydromassage are:
- Patients undergoing spinal manipulation or chiropractic care
- Those with neck injuries and neck pain
- Those with lower back injuries and lower back pain
- Those with TMJ (Temporomandibular joint syndrome)
- Those with Multiple Sclerosis
- Those with Crohn’s Disease
- Those who suffer from Fibromyalgia
- Those with Arthritis or chronic inflammation
- Those with Tendonitis
- Those with Lupus
Again, if you’re pregnant, frail, have recently had surgery or an injury, you should consult your doctor before seeking hydromassage therapy.
If none of those conditions describe you, you could likely benefit from hydromassage!
Benefits of Hydromassage
Now that you know who can benefit from hydromassage, we can talk about the benefits of hydromassage in depth. The multitude of benefits and results may just surprise you!
Different Settings Provide Different Benefits
According to the Good Spa Guide, the temperature of the water, movement, and pressure can provide varying benefits to different parts of the body.
That’s one of the reasons why facilities may have several different hydromassage pools that users need to move from, and one of the reasons why there are different settings in hydromassage beds and lounges.
Another benefit of hydromassage is that it’s an affordable treatment.
According to Chuze Fitness, many gyms and spas include hydromassage in their memberships, so members may not even have to pay extra for hydromassage therapy.
For example, hydromassage is included with a Black Card gym membership at Planet Fitness, which costs around $22.00 per month.
If facilities do charge an extra or separate fee for hydromassage, the treatment is still very affordable compared to other treatments. Chuze Fitness states that hydromassage usually costs around $20.00 per session.
At other facilities, like Anders Chiropractic, hydromassage costs just $1.00 per minute – or users can choose from a variety of packages for multiple sessions.
Hydromassage cost will vary from facility to facility but is typically always relatively affordable.
Generally Soothes and Relaxes
Aside from all the other in-depth and specific benefits hydromassage can provide, it generally soothes and relaxes those who undergo the treatment.
Even if users don’t see a lot of other benefits from hydromassage, they can typically always expect the process to relax their bodies, muscles, and even their minds.
A big benefit of the pressured streams of hot water during hydromassage is that it helps to improve circulation.
Good Spa Guide notes that the powerful jets of water stimulate your circulatory and lymphatic systems by getting blood and lymph moving throughout the body.
Furthermore, Aqua Living Stores cites that an Italian study found that those with compromised leg circulation experienced more reduced symptoms with hydromassage than with traditional compression stockings.
Improved Heart Function
Hydromassage can even help users have healthier heart function.
According to Aqua Living Stores, 70% of heart attack patients studied in Russia saw improved clinical condition from submerged hydromassage (hydromassage pools).
Research conducted in Russia found that these heart attack patients experienced higher exercise tolerance, fewer episodes of reduced blood flow, and reduced chest pain after receiving hydromassage.
That Russian research also found the positive results of hydromassage experienced by heart attack patients lasted for up to 6 months, and in some cases, lasted up to 12 months!
Hydromassage is a great therapy for reducing pain, especially pain in the muscles and joints.
Dr. Craig Singer notes that the heat combined with the water pressure in hydromassage help deliver oxygen to the muscles. Hydromassage also helps take the pressure off those muscles as well as joints.
Increased oxygen to the muscles and reduced pressure of the muscles and joints leads to pain relief and reduction.
You may not believe it or have considered it, but hydromassage can even help those that experience sleep issues.
How does that work?
First, it’s important to know that when your body temperature drops, signals are sent to your brain to indicate that it’s time to sleep.
Hydromassage raises your body temperature temporarily, but as soon as your hydromassage is completed, your body temperature experiences a drop.
When that drop in body temperature happens, it can cue your body that it’s time to rest and sleep.
The drop in body temperature, the signal that it’s time for the body to sleep, and the overall relaxation provided by hydromassage can greatly help anyone suffering from sleep issues.
Not only can users feel like they want to go to sleep, but they may also experience a longer and more restful sleep.
Those that get hydromassage, especially hydromassage in a pool, may also experience skin benefits in addition to other hydromassage benefits.
Because hydromassage improves circulation and helps move blood and lymph, hydromassage users can experience more healthy, glowing skin.
Aqua Living Stores notes another study on hydromassage, conducted in Sweden. This study found that hydromassage can result in benefits for the skin like:
- Reduced scarring
- Reduced redness
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduction of abnormal pigmentation
Good Spa Guide notes that users of hydromassage may also experience more cleansed and invigorated skin.
Anxiety and Stress Relief
Because hydromassage promotes relaxation and can even boost cell renewal, those with anxiety and stress may experience relief and reduction of symptoms through hydromassage.
Detox and Toxin Release
Hydromassage can even promote toxin release and help your body detox.
This happens because of both the pressure of the water and the heat of hydromassage.
Because hydromassage is so hot, the body can be caused to sweat. While the pressure of the water jets improve circulation and push out toxins, those toxins can be quickly released through sweat.
Before and After Working Out
If you’re planning on working out, hydromassage can be a great aid to your workout routine both before and after.
Chuze Fitness outlines that if hydromassage is used before a workout, users can experience the benefits of feeling more relaxed, feeling more focused on the workout, more warmed up muscles, and more flexibility.
If hydromassage is used after a workout, benefits include reduced inflammation, reduced muscle soreness, increased circulation and blood flow, and faster recovery between workouts.
Chuze Fitness also notes that hydromassage pressure should be relatively low if used before a workout because high pressure can cause muscles to be sore and hinder an effective and productive workout.
However, hydromassage pressure can be turned up when used after a workout and tuned in to specific areas that need the most recovery.
Other Benefits of Hydromassage
Hydromassage offers a lot of benefits, right? Some you may not even have expected.
However, there are even more benefits that hydromassage can offer, such as:
- Increased range of motion, especially in joints
- Release of pressure on nerves
- Release of trigger points
- Increased sense of wellbeing
- Decreased migraine symptoms
- Aid with digestion
- Help with soft tissue pains
- Arthritis pain relief
If you decide to engage in hydromassage yourself, you may even experience benefits that aren’t on this list or in this article. Benefits differ from person to person and aren’t limited to what’s been discussed here.
It’s likely that the facilities you’ve come into contact with – gyms, spas, chiropractors – offer hydromassage. While extensive scientific research hasn’t been conducted on the effectiveness of hydromassage, many users that undergo this therapy report that it’s effective and comes with a lot of benefits.
Benefits of hydromassage include (but aren’t limited to) improved circulation, healthier heart function, pain reduction, help with sleep issues, healthier skin, relief of stress and anxiety, toxin release, and general relaxation.
Really anyone can benefit from hydromassage, but hydromassage can be especially helpful for those who have chronic pain or suffer from spine injuries, muscle injuries, TMJ, Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease, Lupus, Tendonitis, Arthritis, and several other conditions.
It’s important to note that if you’re pregnant, frail, or have recently had surgery or an injury, you shouldn’t undergo hydromassage without first consulting your doctor.
All that being said – is it your turn to sit back, relax, and enjoy hydromassage? We hope you do, and enjoy!
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS