Application areas and effects of aquatic therapy WATSU - A survey among practitioners

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2022 Feb:46:101513. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2021.101513. Epub 2021 Nov 23.


Introduction: WATSU (WaterShiatsu) is a treatment administered in warm water. The present study investigated if and how frequently scientifically studied application areas and effects of WATSU occur in practice, whether similar effectiveness of WATSU is observed in trials and practice, and whether practitioners can contribute additional application areas and effects of WATSU.

Methods: Application areas and effects of WATSU reported in a recent systematic review were extracted verbatim to be assessed in a worldwide multilingual cross section online survey, generating quantitative and qualitative data. A pre-test and retest were conducted to ensure quality and evaluate the questionnaire's psychometric properties.

Results: Answers of 191 respondents were processed. All proposed 26 application areas and 20 effects were confirmed, each with relatively high ratings of observed effectiveness of WATSU. WATSU was frequently applied in healthy individuals (including during pregnancy), and individuals in various pain- (e.g., low back pain, neck pain, myofascial pain, fibromyalgia) and stress-related (e.g., stress, depression, sleep disorders, fatigue, anxiety disorders) conditions. Frequently confirmed effects were physical relaxation, relief of physical tension, pain relief, increased mobility and flexibility, improved quality of life, spiritual experiences, and increased psychological health. Respondents contributed 73 additional application areas and effects (both, mental and physical) of WATSU.

Conclusions: Application areas and effects of WATSU are consistently employed practically and scientifically. Respondents' ratings of effectiveness of WATSU match tentative research efforts. WATSU is cautiously recommended for the use in pain- and stress-related conditions. Short- and long-term effectiveness of WATSU need to be evaluated in high level intervention studies.

Keywords: Hydrotherapy; Mind-body; Mindfulness; Rehabilitation; Water-based therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Aquatic Therapy
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hydrotherapy*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires