What is watsu? 13 surprising health benefits of aquatic therapy
What is watsu, and what can it do for you?
Ever felt the discomfort of tight muscles, aching joints, or tension from stress in your life? Chances are pretty good you’ve looked for ways to find relief.
- Deep breathing
- And sometimes even medication
But there’s at least one more way to beat stress and tension: watsu.
- Watsu is a combination of massage and aquatic therapy created by practitioner Harold Dull.1 When Dull began using shiatsu (a kind of Japanese massage therapy) in water, he called it “watsu.”
What does watsu therapy look like?
Imagine a massage therapy session in water. That’s essentially watsu (water + shiatsu therapy).
Here’s how it works:1
- A patient and practitioner enter a pool of chest-deep water heated to about 95 degrees.
- The patient floats in the water in a supine position, while the practitioner moves the patient around using gentle circular movements.
- Stretching and massage therapy is also applied to joints, muscles, and tissue during a watsu session.
Watsu therapy to treat chronic pain & other health conditions
Watsu has been widely used as a homeopathic way to treat chronic pain and boost relaxation, but watsu is being used to treat other health conditions, like:
- Sleep disorders. Researchers found that a combination of watsu therapy and physical therapy may help improve sleep quality and duration for people living with Parkinson’s disease.2
- Cerebral palsy. Research shows that watsu therapy may help children with cerebral palsy improve head control and movement functions more than traditional physical therapy.3
- Lower back pain. Watsu therapy is frequently used to treat and reduce lower back pain in pregnant women and those with chronic lower back pain.1
- Autism Spectrum Disorder. Researchers found that regular aquatic therapy for children with autism may help improve communication, social skills, and physical coordination.4
- Osteoarthritis. One study found that aquatic therapy may help reduce joint pain and improve mobility associated with osteoarthritis.5
Research shows watsu may also help in other ways, like:6
- Reduce neck, back and muscle pain
- Reduce inflammation
- Relax muscles
- Increase blood circulation
- Promote recovery
- Improve flexibility
- Reduce anxiety
- Lower stress
- Reduce joint pain
- Improve mobility
- Reduce joint pain and stiffness associated with arthritis
- Treat mood disorders such as anxiety or PTSD
- Aid in recovery from a spinal cord or brain injury due to trauma, stroke, or degenerative disease
Who provides watsu therapy?
In most cases, watsu is performed by private health practitioners who specialize in alternative and naturopathic therapies.
Watsu therapy is typically performed at a health spa or naturopathic clinic in a heated pool. Watsu may also be performed in a private heated pool or hot tub by a trained professional.
While watsu may not always be covered by insurance, you may be able to use health savings account funds to pay for watsu therapy with a letter of medical necessity from your doctor.7
You can find watsu professionals through the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association.
People should not take part in watsu if any of the following apply.8
- Contact a medical professional if you have reason to believe that time spent floating in warm water presents a health concern.
- People who currently exhibit a fever or temperature instability should not participate in Watsu.
- If your eardrum is perforated, do not take part in Watsu without a medically approved earplug.
- You’ll need a doctor’s permission, and likely some extra safety measures, if you have spinal cord injury, are neurologically compromised, or experience epilepsy or multiple sclerosis.
- If you’re sensitive to chemicals used in pools, such as chlorine or bromine, Watsu may not be for you.
- Heart conditions, such as blood clots, cardiac failure, or unstable angina, mean you shouldn’t practice Watsu.
- People with active skin infections, or who are prone to developing skin infections, shouldn’t participate in Watsu sessions.
- If you have uncontrolled diabetes or kidney issues, you shouldn’t practice Watsu until your condition is stable.
DISCLAIMER: This advertisement contains information compiled by HealthMarkets. HealthMarkets does not represent that these are statements of fact. Please consult directly with your primary care physician if you need medical advice.