Hydrotherapy is a form of physiotherapy where the physical ailments of patients are treated by a series of exercises performed whilst submerged in water. The water is heated to 33-36 degrees Celsius to keep the patients and their muscles warm, improving blood flow. Carrying out the exercises helps them build up their strength and increase the range of movements they can carry out. The water supports the body weight making it an ideal situation for rehabilitating weakened limbs without causing further injury. Hydrotherapy is usually focussed on slow controlled movement and relaxation of the patient.
The use of immersion in water for treating illness dates back to ancient times. However in the 19th century in particular it was revived as a reliable treatment in western Europe, backed up by scientific research and publications.
This is the hydrotherapy pool at the Princess Margaret Rose (PMR) Orthopaedic Hospital in approximately the 1950s, and comes from a pamphlet commemorating the hospital’s closure in 2001:
The PMR Hospital was built in 1932 specifically to deal with crippling diseases in Scotland. At various times the causes of these disabilities included tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, road accidents, arthritis and rheumatism and using the pool helped with rehabilitation of the patients. The pool was popular with many staff and patients and originally the physiotherapists wore chest waders as they treated patients!
The Western General Hospital also had a hydrotherapy pool and it continues to provide this type of treatment to this day. The image dates from approximately the early 1970s:
Hydrotherapy pool at the Western General Hospital, 1970s (P/PL13/P/055)
The hospital has been a centre of excellence in surgical neurology since 1960 and hydrotherapy provided treatment for patients recovering from paresis due to brain trauma and spinal surgery. Wards and clinics also likely to have made use of it would have included the orthopaedic department (which was open from 1960-1992) and the rheumatology department.
Princess Margaret Rose Orthopaedic Hospital (1932-2001), Ed. Macnicol, M