Hydrotherapy: More Than Just a Hot Tub

October 2020 | by holly netz

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”  - Sylvia Plath 

We are continually redefining what healthy looks like as we evolve as a society. Thankfully we have gone beyond the days of Jane Fonda’s workouts, low-fat foods, and diet soda. While we haven’t completely eliminated crazy diets and the number on the scale as our sole focus, our culture has begun to embrace the concept of health as a whole. The calorie count of foods matters less than the nutrients they contain. We have adopted healing, strengthening exercise, and meditation forms, rather than just running on a treadmill. Most importantly, we are starting to learn to listen to our bodies and allow healing and self-care instead of treating our bodies as machines. 

I’ll admit when I think of friends or family who own a hot tub, I think, “I couldn’t afford that,” “The upkeep must be ridiculous,” or “How much electricity is that thing pulling?” Then I realize I sound a bit like my very frugal (but amazing) grandmother. When asked to do an article on Hot Tubs and Spas, I thought of myself as most likely the worst fit for said topic.  

Most of us view owning a hot tub/spa as a high-end luxury. (Hello, self!) However, through research, I realized that like many luxuries that we make room for in our lives, this one provides more health benefits than first thought, and can be affordable if we consciously decide to make it a financial priority. After all, indoor plumbing was once a luxury --- evolution is a good thing, right? 

Healthier with a hot tub? 

I knew hot tubs were relaxing but was surprised at the range of mental and physical health benefits. Mentally, the sound and motion of swirling water assist relaxation and reduces anxiety. Studies have shown the sound of natural bodies of moving water (rivers, oceans) do this, and a hot tub mimics those benefits. Increased body temperature can help you fall asleep faster, and warming combined with dilation of blood vessels and increased blood flow relieves tension headaches 

The Physical Health Benefits:  

  • Studies have shown that 15-30 minutes per day in a hot tub helped reduce blood sugar levels for Type 2 Diabetes patients.  
  • Steam can also help open breathing passages in sinuses and lungs to aid respiratory health. With Montana being a hot spot for those with seasonal allergies, this benefit alone could pay back in spades.  
  • Soaking in a hot tub can improve your cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate but lowering blood pressure.  
  • Most interesting to me (as one of this statistic), almost 80% of Americans suffer from chronic back or knee pain. Water buoyancy experienced while in a hot tub relaxes muscles. Temperature decreases tension and improves flexibility, helping with arthritis and stiffness. 

So, all of that sounds great, and I (and my bum knee) are now on team “Buy a Hot Tub Now!”. However, with two kids in college, an addiction to art supplies, and my grandma’s frugal voice in my head, doing so seems slightly impractical.  

Hot tubs can seem intimidating. Prices mostly range from $3,000 to $8,000 – and can climb to $35,000, says HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide. However, lifespan can be 5 – 20 years, dependent mostly on care. If you start in that mid-range, consider the tub's lifespan, add maintenance costs (Hot Tub Works Total Cost of Ownership breakdown suggests about $600/year), the actual cost of owning a hot tub can hover around $100-$150/month all in. Yes, that big up-front cost is the hard one, but most hot tub suppliers (or your local bank) offer financing. Before you pooh-pooh that idea, remember that you most likely did so with your iPhone.  

So, I'll finish by going to that same place we all go to when we say we can't afford something: How much did you spend on fancy coffee this month? What about dinner out last Friday? How much were those fabulous shoes? I'm not going to say how much I spend on my hair monthly. We know we aren't going to, nor should we, eliminate these purchases. But if we whittled them down just a bit in each category? Maybe watching our spending on some small luxuries would allow us to have a BIG luxury right in our home. Oh, and as a final note, if a health professional advises you to use hydrotherapy as a regular program and this is your primary reason for owning a hot tub, your purchase may qualify for an income tax deduction as a medical expense! 

Consider me converted!  

Originally printed in the October 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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