Powerful jets, in combination with controlled heat, are beneficial for a slew of ailments. While this list is by no means exhaustive, these are just a few expert- and research-backed advantages of hot tub hydrotherapy.
Injury recovery & improved circulation
“A hot tub can be an excellent adjunct for recovery from injury and relief from pain,” explains Cameron Yuen, DPT, CSCS, and director of rehab and training at Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City. “Heat causes the dilation of blood vessels, allowing for improved blood flow throughout the body, especially in the periphery. This is where most injuries occur, and where aches and pain tend to linger, so improved blood flow to the area can be very beneficial.”
Relief from muscle & joint pain
Hot tub hydrotherapy may go beyond helping with temporary aches and pains. A collection of studies from 2000 to 2019 found that therapy using warm water had significant positive effects on people with chronic musculoskeletal or connective tissue diseases2. “The increased blood flow from heat helps muscles recover, prevents stiffness, and promotes joint homeostasis,” adds Bonney.
Regardless of temperature, research has shown aquatic exercise to be an impactful tool for improving mental health3. Yuen says that adding some heat to the equation can trigger a physiologic switch, putting the body in a better position to heal and rest.
“Warm water massage helps to stimulate the release of endorphins that reduce stress,” agrees Bonney. “And, in addition to stress reduction, hot tub hydrotherapy can dilate blood vessels and improve circulation to help prevent headaches.”
If timed correctly, the relaxation benefits of hot tub hydrotherapy could help you drift off to sleep. “Many patients [who use hot tubs] endorse improvement in deep, restorative sleep,” says Bonney. Studies align with this, showing that older adults who took a hot bath before bedtime fell asleep quicker4.
Weight loss & GI management
While it’s not a one-way ticket to weight loss, one 2019 study found that incorporating spa therapy into a weight management program had a positive effect on obese and overweight patients5. In addition to stimulating weight loss, Bonney adds that using heat to increase blood flow to the GI tract can help with chronic bowel issues like constipation.
If an anti-inflammatory response is your goal, you may consider pairing a hot tub with a cold plunge. “Hot tub hydrotherapy alternating with a cold plunge is a powerful method to detox and lower overall inflammation,” says Bonney. “It’s one of my go to biohacks, to help optimize body function.” If you’re ready to go all-in, we have a few suggestions for at-home cold plunge tubs (plus, a mindbodygreen community discount).
One recent study from 2022 found that habitual hot tub use was associated with slight improvements in glucose levels, obesity, and diastolic blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes6.