History of hot tubs and health

by Apr 4, 2013

The man in galvanic bath and the woman setting it up

Hot tubs today provide numerous health benefits to users. The heat, buoyancy, and massage afforded by an intelligently designed spa have positive effects on a variety of ailments: from aches and pains to stress to insomnia, hot tub use is associated with gradual amelioration on all fronts.

One specific condition that is discussed when talking about conditions that can be improved with hot tub use is arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis in particular can be treated with hot tub use. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue by mistake: normally the immune system only defends the body against malignant invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.

This specific kind of arthritis though, has an extensive history of being treated with hydrotherapy. In the 1870s, one doctor in particular was instrumental in popularizing the use of galvanic baths for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Her name was Jennie Kidd Trout, and in addition to pioneering this kind of treatment program, she was also the first woman in Canada to legally become a medical doctor. She was also the only woman in Canada licensed to practice medicine for half a decade until 1880, until a fellow alumna from the University of Toronto completed her own training.

The man in galvanic bath and the woman setting it up

Galvanic baths use water and gentle electrical current to treat users, who lie in 34 degree Celsius (93 degree Fahrenheit) water for treatment. Trout is famous for using four-celled baths rather than whole-body baths: each limb had its own bath so that those seeking treatment didn’t have to strip into bathing suits for sessions. The four-cell baths were designed to treat the joints people most often have problems with: fingers, wrists, elbows, and ankles. Each bath had its own current connection, so treatment could be varied and targeted depending on the patient’s particular needs. Electrical shock was not a concern, because the tubs, which were porcelain, weren’t connected to water pipes and were well insulated from grounding.

The man in galvanic bathToday, galvanic baths are considered an alternative medical treatment in the broad category of electrotherapy. They’re used to treat many degenerative diseases along with rheumatoid arthritis; the procedure is pain-killing and improves circulation in the areas of the body that are submerged in water. Hot tubs are beneficial in many of the same ways as galvanic baths, but have the added benefit of being hubs of social activity in the convenience of your own backyard!