Chronic Pain Vs Acute Pain
Before we delve into how hot tubs can help people with chronic pain, let’s first look at how chronic pain differs from acute pain.
Acute pain happens after an injury. It doesn’t last long, and goes away after your body heals from whatever caused the pain. Some types of acute pain, such as muscle injuries, can be alleviated with hot tub use, while others, such as those caused by sprains, cuts or bruises, cannot.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, either continues after you recover from an injury, or isn’t tied a specific injury at all. Arthritis, for example, is a chronic pain condition that is not tied to an injury. Chronic pain is typically either muscle or joint pain and, depending on the cause, can be constant, or it may come and go.
How Hydrotherapy Can Help Chronic Pain
Hot tubs provide three main benefits to those living with chronic muscle or joint pain. These benefits are:
Bathing in hot water raises your body’s temperature. This rise in temperature causes your blood vessels to dilate, which improves your circulation. This increase in blood flow helps your body’s cells eliminate damaging wastes, decreases inflammation, and promotes the release of endorphins (a natural pain killer).
Chronic joint pain also typically reduces joint flexibility and leaves you feeling stiff. Heating up your joints also make them more pliable; reducing stiffness and improving your range of motion.
Submerging your body in water reduces the pressure on your joints, ligaments, and muscles by 85-90%. Reducing this stress on your body, buoyancy can help reduce stiffness and promotes easier, pain-free movement and an improved range of motion. This effect is particularly useful in treating joint ailments like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Chronic pain causes muscles in your body to tense, ache and reduce their mobility. Massage therapy helps reduce chronic muscle pain through several processes. Firstly, the pressure and release of massage causes your body to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase serotonin and dopamine (mood stabilizer hormones). This helps reduce tension in your muscles and allows them to relax.
Massage also helps to increase blood flow in the area being massaged, which (as we’ve already learned) can help to remove wastes and decrease inflammation in the affected area.
Finally, massage can help to increase range of movement. When muscles get tight, connective tissues can form in areas with poor circulation; interfering with normal movement. Massage helps to stretch and loosen these connective tissues; releasing trigger points and restoring the body’s ability to move more easily.
How To Use Your Hot Tub For Pain Relief
Now that we know how hot tubs can help to relieve chronic pain, we thought we’d share a few tips to help you maximize the pain relieving benefits of your hot tub.
- Consistency is key. Daily soaks for 20-30 minutes will provide better overall relief than 1 hour soaks 3 times per week.
- Find the right seat. Different hot tub seats are designed to provide different types of massage and accommodate people of heights. It’s worth taking some time to try out different seats in your hot tub to find the one that fits you best.
- Take advantage of the heat and buoyancy that the hot tub provides to do some stretches and light, low-impact exercises.
- Take time to hydrate before and after your soak. Staying hydrated helps to reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation.
Hot tubs offer one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways of helping to alleviate chronic pain. Their combination of heat, buoyancy and massage can help to loosen stiff joints, improve circulation, decrease inflammation and reduce pain through the release of endorphins; a natural pain killer. For best results, we recommend daily soaks of around 20-30 minutes in length.