Whirlpool therapy is a physical therapy modality that is used to treat several orthopaedic and neurological dysfunctions. While the name may make it sound intimidating, it is a non-invasive treatment that has proven to have minimal to no side effects. In fact, multiple studies support the use of whirlpool in addressing both chronic and acute pain. If you are suffering from pain and you are looking for relief, contact Sports & Orthopaedic Therapy Services to see if you could benefit from whirlpool therapy as part of your treatment plan.
What exactly is whirlpool?
Whirlpool therapy is a form of treatment that many people may not have heard about. Sure, it can treat pain… but what exactly is it?
Whirlpool is actually one of the oldest types of hydrotherapy, originally used as a way for physical therapists to treat patients with burns. Now, it is used to treat a wide variety of painful conditionals that you may be experiencing.
Whirlpool uses the properties of water buoyancy, viscosity, and temperature modulation to achieve the benefits of pain relief and healing. The temperature of the water in the whirlpool can be warm or cold, depending on the desired goal.
Warm vs. cold whirlpools
If the desired goal is increased circulation, then a warm whirlpool will be administered by a physical therapist. Warm whirlpools are more common than cold whirlpools, as the warmth helps in opening up the small arteries in the body and increasing circulation. In turn, the increased circulation helps in bringing fresh blood, oxygen, and cellular regeneration to the injured area, which promotes healing.
However, there are cases where cold whirlpools would be favorable. For example, cold whirlpools are typically administered when the desired goal is to decrease circulation to the injured body part, in order to restore homeostasis. Cold whirlpools can also help in managing the swelling and inflammation around the injured body part.
A combination of both hot and cold whirlpools are known as “contrast baths.” With a contrast bath, a physical therapist will repeatedly move the injured body part from the warm water to the cold water throughout the course of the treatment every 1-3 minutes. Contrast baths are used to create a rapid opening and closing of the arteries, thus creating a “pumping” effect throughout the body. This will help in decreasing swelling around the injured body part.
How does whirlpool work?
Whirlpool therapy takes place in a large tub that is filled with either the warm or cold water used for your treatment. The affected body part will be placed in the water, and then a motor will be started to move water around the body part in a jet-like manner. While submerged, you may be asked to move the affected body part in certain directions, in order to improve function and mobility in the injured area. Typical whirlpool treatments last approximately 15-20 minutes.
There are both physical and physiological benefits of whirlpool therapy. These include, but are not limited to:
- Reducing pain
- Reducing inflammation and edema
- Improving range of motion and mobility
- Healing tissue
- De-sensitization with hypersensitivity
- General strengthening
Whirlpool treatments are typically used in conjunction with other therapeutic interventions and modalities, in order to restore function, improve mobility, and promote healing. Additional treatments will be dependent on the nature of your condition and will be determined by your physical therapist after your evaluation.
Schedule your appointment!
Our Silver Spring physical therapists are dedicated to helping you find relief and recovery from the pain you are feeling. If you’ve been struggling from acute or chronic pain, schedule your initial appointment with us at Sports & Orthopaedic Therapy Services in Silver Spring, MD today to find out if whirlpool treatments will work for you.