Unpredictable and intense, nerve pain can be debilitating for those unfortunate enough to experience it. A symptom of a variety of diseases and conditions, including sciatica, shingles, fibromyalgia and diabetes, nerve pain can prove difficult to manage, as ‘breakthrough pain’ can strike even when medications and treatments are successfully treating chronic discomfort. But could a spa pool offer relief?
There is evidence to suggest that the warmth, massage and hydrotherapy offered by spa pools can indeed help with the management of nerve pain when used as a supplement to medication and other treatments. Add in all the other health and wellness benefits of spa pools, and this purchase becomes far more than a simple indulgence.
How exactly might a spa pool relieve nerve pain, scientifically speaking? Let’s take a look at the evidence at hand, to gain an understanding of whether a spa pool might be a worthwhile investment for your situation.
Does a hot tub help with nerve pain?
Because nerve pain is a symptom of a wealth of diseases and conditions, the question of whether a spa pool offers general relief from this pain is a difficult one to answer. If we focus in on specific conditions, however, the answers tend to become a little clearer.
This study, for example, looked at patients suffering from neck pain. The first group was offered physical therapy (PT), while the second was offered PT and immersion in warm, mineralised water, otherwise known as balneotherapy (similar to though not exactly the same as spa pool water.) It found that “balneotherapy in combination with PT is superior to PT alone in reducing pain and disability and improving quality of life in patients with chronic neck pain.”
Many spa pool owners also report that the massaging action of the therapeutic jets can relieve and relax the soft tissues, which can so often be tense and tired in those who struggle with nerve pain. According to this sciatica advocacy organisation, a spa pool can form a particularly effective treatment for muscular forms of pseudo-sciatica, such as piriformis syndrome.
How does a Hot Spring spa pool offer such relief? It comes down to the physiological effects of stepping into the water. The volume of blood pumped by the heart increases, blood vessels widen, and as more oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood gets sent around the body, inflammation can be reduced, soft tissues can better heal themselves, and there are even mental health benefits as the brain is delivered the fuel it needs. As a result of all this, nerve pain can potentially be reduced.
Do hot tubs help inflammation?
So often inflammation and nerve pain go hand-in-hand. Indeed, there is mounting evidence that one can cause the other, as peripheral inflammatory mediators are capable of sensitising the nervous system, something that might ring true to sufferers of everything from diabetes to rheumatoid arthritis.
Can a spa pool help to reduce inflammation? In many cases, yes it can. It begins with the physiological effects mentioned above: when you step into a spa pool, blood vessels are widened and blood flow increases. Add in the gentle squeeze of the water (called hydrostatic pressure), and you may have a recipe that can effectively deal with built up fluids and swelling.
A 2018 study put the theory to the test, by analysing the effects of hot water immersion on a group of overweight and largely sedentary men. It found that soaking in warm water had a similar effect on inflammation as exercise did: at first there was a brief inflammatory response in reaction to a change in conditions, but as the body got used to the water an extended anti-inflammatory response followed.
Is swimming good for nerve damage?
At its worst, nerve pain can be debilitating, affecting a sufferer’s ability to do even the most basic of tasks. This can lead to a sedentary and ultimately unhealthy lifestyle, as a patient avoids any activity that brings with it the possibility of pain. Exercise is often the very first activity that falls by the wayside, but could low impact exercise actually help to reduce nerve pain?
On top of being a critical factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there is evidence to suggest that hydrotherapy and aquacise can form a solid supplementary treatment for patients with nerve pain. As this study of fibromyalgia sufferers concluded, “hydrotherapy is an effective non-pharmacologic therapeutic approach for the management of FMS patients, improving pain, fatigue, and quality of life. These therapeutic effects are achieved by the physiological changes caused by in-water exercising.”
Thanks to Endless Pools, accessing this hydrotherapy is now easier than ever, as it can be placed just steps from your back door! Despite measuring just a few metres long, an Endless Pools swim spa offers a truly endless swim-in-place experience. Simply set the water to your preferred temperature, set the current to your preferred speed, and get swimming! You can also add on any number of exercise equipment options to run, row, cycle or do resistance training, allowing you to work the parts of your body that need it the most.
Can hydrotherapy help sciatica?
Sciatica – pain that radiates from the sciatic nerve from the lower back down to the legs – is one of the most common nerve issues. It most often occurs between the ages of 40 and 60, and tends to affect men more frequently than women. But does hydrotherapy form an effective treatment?
Swimming and other low impact forms of exercise are indeed one of the most common forms of treatment in sciatica sufferers who are physically able. Because 90% of sciatica resolves itself within six weeks, hydrotherapy can serve to make things more comfortable while a patient simply waits out that time.
What’s more, tentative evidence points to the fact that nerves could be repaired and regenerated with hydrotherapy. This study investigated whether swimming could help with sciatic nerve regeneration in rats. It concluded that “regeneration improved significantly with moderate swimming. These results should inspire new studies in physiotherapeutic practice for related human treatment.”
While nerve pain is a deeply personal and complex issue, hydrotherapy does form an effective treatment in many situations. And in a Hot Spring spa pool or an Endless Pools swim spa, you have hydrotherapy at its most soothing and luxurious.