6 Commonly Asked Questions About Watsu Therapy

This therapy was created in 1980 by a massage therapist Harold Dull. He noticed that it is much easier for patients’ tissues and muscles to relax in water than without it. Additionally, he figured out that shiatsu methods were more effective when done in water.

In the vast majority of cases, Watsu therapy is used in order to relieve pain and discomfort caused by a variety of factors. The main idea behind this type of therapy is that the resistance of water soothes physical tension and stimulated relation, which further supports overall health.

What is Watsu therapy?

In simple terms, Watsu therapy is a type of water therapy. It is also known as hydrotherapy, which involves stretches, acupressure and massages in warm water. The term “Watsu” came from the word “water” and “shiatsu”, which is a traditional Japanese massage aimed to stimulate relaxation. Shiatsu means finger pressure in Japanese. Watsu sessions normally vary depending on specific needs of a patient. Thus, therapists customize each Watsu session to your specific needs. In general, these sessions involve stretches, massages and movements aimed to reduce your symptoms.

How does Watsu therapy work?

As was already mentioned, Watsu therapy is performed in water. It can be done either in a hot tube or a pool. The water should be heated up to 95F (35C), which is a temperature close to the temperature of your skin. During this therapy, your body will be moved gently by a therapist, which is known as passive hydrotherapy. This is mainly because there is no need for a patient to actively perform the movements.

During the whole session, your therapist will be in water with you and your body will be moved in specific motions including:

  1. Cradling or rocking
  2. Stretching
  3. Gentle twisting
  4. Massaging pressure points

The main idea is to reduce tightness in your muscles and fascia tissue. This therapy is also aimed to stimulate a healthy flow of energy. It should be also mentioned that this therapy is typically performed in silent settings for the purpose of increasing relaxation. Thus, a lot of therapists make use of soothing music during their sessions.

What is it used for?

Watsu is a therapeutic treatment, which is used to reduce pain and tension in your muscles. It can be also used to enhance physical movement and joint mobility. This therapy can be extremely effective for people with:

  1. Back pain
  2. Chronic pain
  3. Muscle tension
  4. Lower back pain
  5. Discomfort during pregnancy
  6. Post-traumatic stress disorder
  7. Anxiety
  8. Depression
  9. Fibromyalgia
  10. Anxiety
  11. Sleep disorders
  12. Stress-related conditions
  13. Spinal cord injury
  14. Injury rehabilitation

What are the benefits of Watsu therapy?

Due to the fact that Watsu therapy was discovered in late 1980, it has been deeply studied. Some of the benefits of Watsu therapy are as follows:

  1. Reduced pain: according to numerous studies, there is a positive correlation between pain relief and Watsu therapy. In 2015, a small study among nine healthy pregnant women was conducted. They took the whole course of Watsu therapy and after the all sessions were completed, they reported lower levels of pain. Specialists linked this to the therapeutic effect of water on joint impact.

Apart from that, another study was conducted among people with fibromyalgia in 2013. After completing 15 sessions of Watsu therapy, they also reported fewer symptoms of pain. In 2019, a group of children with juvenile arthritis was researched. The research showed that after receiving Watsu therapy, these children experienced less pain.

The main explanation for all the aforementioned Improvements is the effect of water in pain receptors, which are also called nociceptors. Doctors claim that the pressure and viscosity of water decrease stimulation of these receptors, which in turn lowers pain perception. It should be also said that Watsu therapy is commonly used for treating back pain problems. People with this problem report dramatic pain relief after completing this type of water therapy.

  1. Reduced anxiety: as far as you might probably know, pain tends to increase anxiety. Therefore, managing pain with Watsu might help to relieve anxiousness. According to a study conducted in 2014, a person with temporomandibular disorders experienced lower anxiety levels after Watsu therapy. Doctors associated these decreased anxiety levels with Watsu’s beneficial impact on pain.

It is also worth mentioning that stress and anxiety can make pain perception worse. However, relaxing therapy like Watsu can improve perceived pain. Several studies show that people experience mood improvements after completing this type of water therapy. Even though all the research conducted to determine the link between anxiety and Watsu therapy encourages people to make use of this therapy, these studies are very small. Thus, more extended research needs to be done in order to identify the link between anxiety and Watsu.

  1. Improved joint mobility: as was mentioned above, Watsu is believed to improve joint mobility. In 2019, doctors conducted a study among 46 children with juvenile arthritis. The main goal of the research was to analyse the participant’s joint motion before and after Watsu therapy. Several children actually experienced improved joint mobility after this type of therapy. The passiveness of Watsu might also provide better relief. Just as with anxiety, more research needs to be done in order to understand the link between joint mobility and Watsu therapy.

Does Watsu therapy have any side effects?

Any kind of therapy has its own drawbacks and Watsu is not an exclusion. Watsu is a passive type of therapy where you cannot actively move your body during treatment and the therapist will do all the work for you. Some people might find a close contact with a therapist extremely uncomfortable.

In addition to that, Watsu therapy should be avoided if you have:

  1. Severe cardiac issues
  2. Open wounds
  3. Skin infections
  4. Fever
  5. Epilepsy, which is uncontrolled
  6. Severe urinary tract problems
  7. Respiratory disease
  8. Allergy to pool chemicals
  9. Bowel incontinence

All the aforementioned conditions might be worsened by water therapy. Some extra precautions should be also taken if you have spinal issues, balance problems or osteoporosis. Pregnant women should talk to their healthcare providers before making use of Watsu therapy.

How to find a Watsu specialist?

It is extremely important to find a licensed and trained practitioner. In order to check whether your specialist is board certified, you can have a loot at your stated board of health. Watsu therapist can be also found through the following platforms:

  1. com
  2. MassageBook
  3. SpaFinder

Furthermore, Watsu specialists can be found in local spas, aqua therapy clinics as well as wellness centres.

To summarize all the aforementioned, it should be said that Watsu is a type of water therapy during which your body is moved gently in warm water. In addition to that, Watsu specialists also do a massage and acupressure based on shiatsu. This type of therapy has proven to decrease pain and anxiety.

Even though there are limited studies on this type of therapy, Watsu is widely used for the purpose of injuries rehabilitation and managing conditions like fibromyalgia, anxiety and sclerosis. It should be also said that there are certain health conditions that might restrict people from this type of therapy. These conditions are mentioned above in the article. Therefore, trying Watsu therapy, you should consult with your doctor in order to ensure that it is safe for you.