Unit 9: Hydrotherapy

Welcome to module 9 and Hydrotherapy. Although you have already learnt a little about this subject in the Naturopathy module, in this module we will look at this powerful therapy in a little more detail. Water is a particularly unique substance and is used in all of its forms in hydrotherapy practice: as steam baths, hot and cold applications and as ice packs. We will look at the various techniques and the science behind how they work and provide some simple, yet effective, techniques that can be used with your family, friends and in your clinical practice.


Hydrotherapy was the treatment of choice for centuries, being the only medicine available to the poor, where the nearest doctor lived many miles away and was often unaffordable. We looked at the use of water in Unani medicine and it is probably via Galen and Greek medicine that Sir John Floyer took his information when he wrote his booklet ‘The History of Cold Bathing’ in the late 1600’s. Paracelsus, who you learned about in the Homeopathy module, stated in his work ‘Diseases Which Deprive Man of His Reason’ that “the best cure and one which rarely fails is to throw such persons into cold water”. Although this sounds a bit barbaric, and one may question whether the person self cured because he didn’t want another public cold dipping, the fact remains that cold water has many therapeutic effects upon the body which we will be studying later in this module. Certainly cold water swimming has been found to be very beneficial for depression.

Hydrotherapy gained in popularity over the 19th century due to the immense success of Vincent Priessnitz and Father Sebastian Kneipp and became rapidly used by both the rich and the poor. The great naturopaths of the late 19th century and early 20th century trained under Father Kneipp, or his direct disciples, and took the message of hydrotherapy from Europe to the United States, Australia and Great Britain.

Hydrotherapy is still practiced today, although it has been developed since the days of Kneipp who generally preferred to use cold water. Modern hydrotherapy includes the use of warm water together with exercises given by physiotherapists for various ailments such as arthritis, rheumatism, muscular pain and anxiety.

In Bad Worishofen, Germany, the Kneipp spa is still running using hot and cold water hydrotherapy treatments. Note that what is known as hydrotherapy today, that which is used by physiotherapists, is very different to traditional hydrotherapy. Traditional hydrotherapy techniques help to build immunity, improve circulation, improve the quality of the blood and lymph and balances the autonomic nervous system.

We will start this module with a detailed look at the History of hydrotherapy and some of the ‘main players’ whose work advanced this gentle but effective therapy.

Hydrotherapy Course 

Units: 1
Study Hours:
Time: Estimated
2 months (timing up to you)
Enrolment period:
4 months (with option to extend)
Purchased separately
Certificate in Hydrotherapy
Study Options:
 E-learning (online) or Correspondence (paper)

Aims of the course

  • To understand the history of hydrotherapy
  • To understand the science that underlies the various hydrotherapy techniques
  • To be able to effectively apply basic hydrotherapy techniques in practice

Why study Hydrotherapy
Knowledge of the basic principles of Hydrotherapy is required to be a registered Naturopath. All of the original Naturopaths used Hydrotherapy and developed its use in their practices. This module provides detailed information about the history, science and practice of hydrotherapy allowing you to use this simple but extremely effective tool safely in your practice.

Learning outcomes
To have a basic understanding of the history of hydrotherapy

To understand how hydrotherapy fits into naturopathic practice

To understand how hydrotherapy fits into the history of medicine

To have a basic understanding of the theory of hydrotherapy techniques

To have a basic understanding of practical hydrotherapy techniques

A programme that combines the four main Eastern medicines with Naturopathy disciplines.