A Chiropractor’s Insight Into Sports and Hydrotherapy

Hot tub therapy attracts a lot of different people for many different reasons. Whether you’re a serious athlete looking to improve your game, an active senior struggling to manage joint pain, or even just a typical suburban wondering if the tub on your patio has any health benefits, you’ve come to the right place. We interviewed with Dr. Ryan DeBell of The Movement Fix Clinic to find some answers.

More Than Just a Chiropractor

Despite his relatively young age of 28, Ryan has a doctorate in chiropractic and a master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science. He has plenty of real-life experience to back up that education, with nearly nine years of high-intensity athletic training, founding and running his own physiotherapy clinic and regularly hosting workshops for athletes and trainers. His goal is not only to help people who incur aches and pains while exercising or moving but also to teach them how to exercise and move better to prevent future injuries. Given that, his clinic name now makes a lot of sense.  

The Heat Effect

We asked him for his physiotherapist’s opinion on hot tub therapy, and his response was quite thought-provoking. 

“There’s some interesting things that happen to the tissues of the body when you put them under heat. You can change the elasticity, so potentially going into the hot tub can give people a greater range of motion than they previously had. It’s kind of like hot yoga, the heat helps them to be more flexible. Like if you took a material and cooled it down, it’s harder to bend, but if you heat it up it’s easier to move it. So that’s kind of how I think about it when people want to use heat.” 

Not A Tool For Everything

An excellent analogy, we thought. But he was also quick to add that heat therapy isn’t necessarily suitable for all injuries.

“If something is acutely injured, and there’s inflammation, I don’t think that heating it would be the best choice. Because sometimes with an injury you don’t want it to move more, you want it to move less, at least temporarily. For example, if someone has a back injury, I don’t think loosening it up would be a good idea. But you have a very stiff joint, and the goal of treatment is to increase the range of motion, then I could see some the application of heat being used with stretching or mobilization afterwards.”

The Best Use Of Heat Therapy

Solid advice. Hot tub therapy can increase the range of motion though with some injuries this may not be a good thing. Ryan gave as an example that a lot of people who don’t have good mobility in their shoulders and their hips, which are the ball and socket joints, will try to compensate with other joints. If they don’t have good mobility in their shoulders and can’t lift their arms far above their heads, they’ll overcompensate with their elbows or wrist, causing pain there. Certain joints then, such as the hips, ankles, and shoulders, are important to have a good range of motion in.

It Just Feels Good

I asked Ryan if there were any other benefits to heat therapy that we hadn’t touched on yet.

Let’s face it: it feels good. No one likes sitting in an ice bath. Heat also helps your blood vessels vasodilate, which means you get more blood flow and explains why your skin turns red. And for a lot of people if they have tight muscles, heat can get those muscles to seemingly relax. I’m sure many people have experienced that, they have a muscle tightness, they heat it up and it feels much better.“

Seemingly relax? I asked Ryan to clarify what he meant.

“Well, there’s a lot going on with your perception of an area. Imagine you got punched in the arm. What you would naturally do to make it feel better is rub it, right? You’re getting different stimulus then. So if your elbow hurts and you put it in heat, then you’re also getting heat sensing signals from the skin and not just pain ones, so that can change the intensity of what you feel.“

Plenty of Benefits

So there you have it from an athlete, chiropractor, and physiotherapist in one. Heat therapy, and hot tubs can increase mobility in those joints, improve blood flow, and even help change your perception of pain. Make sure you are applying the right therapy to the correct problem.  

Thank you Ryan, for sharing and all the best with your ventures. 

If you want to see more of Ryan’s work, please visit him at The Movement Fix or see his most popular articles:

To ensure your hot tub is ready to heal that aching body, have a look at how easy pHin is.  

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