Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregivers Blog

Happiness is a Bubble Bath

As early as 2,000 B.C., Egyptians used hot baths to ease pain and promote relaxation by placing hot rocks into water. In Ancient Greece, elaborate buildings were built around natural hot springs and used as hospitals and also provided a place for people to meet. 

Hippocrates, prescribed hot soaks as a treatment for many conditions like arthritis and hypertension. The Latin words sanus per aquam mean health through water.


Medical research continues to confirm the health benefits from regular traditional hot water tub baths. Physicians recommend the water temperature to be about 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit to relieve minor aches and pains, as well as therapy to protect and improve your health.

Researcher, Joel M. Stager, Ph.D., a professor of Kinesiology at the University of Indiana studied the therapeutic effects of water for 30 years.  He suggests that regular swimming can slow aging as much as 20 percent in some people by maintaining or improving respiration, muscle mass and cardiovascular function. While Dr. Stager, has focused much of his study on competitive swimmers; Bruce E. Becker, M.D., clinical professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington adds even more reasoning to the use of regular tub baths of at least twenty minutes but he prefers forty minutes versus people taking showers.

Dr. Becker states, "Immediately after a person is immersed, water begins to exert pressure on the body. The heart gets a cardiovascular workout just from sitting in a hot tub. Even the most basic water workoutcan strengthen the heart and muscles better than a similar routine on land.” Dr. Becker also states that exercising in the water also helps prevent overheating and does not impact joints.  Dr. Becker also reminds people to not start any new therapy without consulting their doctor.

Arthritis relief: "The soothing warmth and buoyancy of warm water makes it a safe, ideal environment for relieving arthritis pain and stiffness," notes the Arthritis Foundation. "Immersing in warm water raises your body temperature, causing your blood vessels to dilate while increasing circulation." This results in less swelling and pain, and increases mobility, a clear benefit for the one in five Americans with arthritis.

Cancer Patients: Although hot tubs aren't going to replace chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, they are increasingly being used as a complementary therapy for some cancer patients.  The cancer patient may at least enjoy the ease of the emotional burden of their disease.

Pain control:  A hot tub bath can reduce inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function while helping to prevent blockages from forming in our arteries. Epson Salts Baths or Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients, flush toxins and help ease migraine headaches.

Diabetes improvement and weight loss: After tracking patients with Type 2 diabetes, researcher Phillip L. Hooper, M.D., of McKee Medical Center in Loveland, Colorado, found that participants who soaked in a spa for 30 minutes a day, six days a week, lost nearly four pounds after three weeks, without making any changes to their diet, exercise habits or other lifestyle factors.  Patients also experienced reduced blood sugar levels; their blood glucose levels dropped, and their A1c levels dipped as well.

General Sense of Well Being: Patients reported improved sleep and an increased general sense of well-being. Their improved blood flow from hot water tub baths appears to be the reason, theorizes Dr. Hooper.
There is good reason why hot tub baths are routinely used by physical therapists and pain management experts for everything from minor aches to the recovery from serious injury.  The hot water stimulates the release of endorphins, naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that kill pain and improve mood.

This information about tub baths has reminded me that all of the older adults who have had difficulty getting in and out of the tub as they grow older and have been advised to stop for safety reasons.  The investment into a walk-in bathtub may be one of the best investments anyone can make to help with aging process. This research was so important to me because of so many older adults using tub baths through all of their adult life over the fast shower. 

 

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