Impact of hydrotherapy on skin blood flow: How much is due to moisture and how much is due to heat?

Physiother Theory Pract. 2010 Feb;26(2):107-12. doi: 10.3109/09593980802640059.


Hydrotherapy and whirlpool are used to increase skin blood flow and warm tissue. However, recent evidence seems to show that part of the increase in skin blood flow is not due to the warmth itself but due to the moisture content of the heat. Therefore, two series of experiments were accomplished on 10 subjects with an average age of 24.2 +/- 9.7 years and free of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Subjects sat in a 37 degrees C hydrotherapy pool under two conditions: one in which a thin membrane protecting their skin from moisture while their arm was submerged in water and the second where their arm was allowed to be exposed to the water for 15 minutes. During this period of time, skin and body temperature were measured as well as skin blood flow by a Laser Doppler Imager. The results of the experiments showed that the vapor barrier blocked any change in skin moisture content during submersion in water, and while skin temperature was the same as during exposure to the water, the blood flow with the arm exposed to water increased from 101.1 +/- 10.4 flux to 224.9 +/- 18.2 flux, whereas blood flow increased to only 118.7 +/- 11.4 flux if the moisture of the water was blocked. Thus, a substantial portion of the increase in skin blood flow associated with warm water therapy is probably associated with moisturizing of the skin rather than the heat itself.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrotherapy*
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry
  • Male
  • Regional Blood Flow*
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Skin Temperature*
  • Time Factors
  • Water*
  • Young Adult


  • Water