Hydromassage is a type of massage that involves water. One version requires a person to immerse themselves in water while water jets apply pressure to the skin. Another type involves special water beds that massage the skin without wetting it.

Hydromassage may offer many of the same benefits as a manual massage, such as relaxation, easing muscle tension, and stimulating circulation. However, there is very little research on this technique.

Read on to learn more about hydromassage, including what happens during a session, the benefits and risks, and how to find a hydromassage service.

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Hydromassage, or water massage, is a type of therapy in which a person uses water pressure to massage the skin. It is one of the techniques involved in hydrotherapy, which is popular at spas.

Unlike a jacuzzi or whirlpool baths, which people tend to use for relaxation and pleasure, the purpose of hydromassage is therapeutic. During a session, jets apply water of varying temperatures and pressures to target different areas.

There are different types of hydromassage. What happens during a session depends on the type a person chooses.

Wet hydromassage

Wet hydromassage involves sitting or lying in water while jets pump pressurized water toward specific areas of the body.

A person may undress in a changing room and, depending on the facility, may have to shower before using the hydrotherapy pool. Then, they will immerse themselves into the water and begin the massage. The person may be able to control the temperature and pressure of the water.

Some spas may offer a series of hydrotherapy pools with various degrees of water pressure and temperature that affect the body differently. Some may also offer hydromassage in pools consisting of seawater or mineral spring water.

Learn more about thalassotherapy.

Dry hydromassage

A person can also opt for dry hydromassage, which does not involve getting wet.

Hydromassage beds or chairs allow a person to sit or lie down on a dry surface with a waterproof cover while jets inside the machine apply water pressure and heat. This allows a person to stay fully clothed.

During a session, people may pay to use the machine for a set time. They will then sit or lie on it, adjusting the temperature or pressure as they like.

Some spas and gyms offer these machines and may provide specific guidance around suitable clothing for the best results.

There is very little research on the benefits of hydromassage. However, it may be similar to other forms of massage. Potential benefits may include:

  • Relaxation: Massage can be relaxing, so people may find hydromassage helpful for reducing stress.
  • Aches and pains: Massage can help reduce muscle tension, which can cause aches and pains. People may find hydromassage does the same thing. A 2019 review noted there is evidence that spa therapy — which includes massage — may help with lower back pain.
  • Post-workout recovery: Some people use massage after a workout to reduce the amount of lactic acid in muscles to ease post-workout aches.
  • Immune health: A nonrandomized, controlled clinical study on children aged 3–6 years found reductions in the number of kindergarten absence days due to lower respiratory tract infections following a cold-water therapy intervention. It is possible that cold hydromassage may provide a similar benefit, although there are no studies that specifically prove this.
  • No contact: Some people may want a massage but feel uncomfortable about another person touching them. Hydromassage may be a good alternative, as it only involves pressure from water jets. Dry hydromassage also does not require a person to get changed, which may be preferable for some people.

Hydromassage device manufacturers, spas, and gyms may make other claims about the health benefits of this therapy. However, not all of these are evidence-based.

Similar to other types of massage, hydromassage is probably safe for most people. However, the charity Versus Arthritis encourages notifying the aquatic therapy practitioner if a person has any of the following:

People should always speak with a doctor before trying an alternative therapy, particularly if they are pregnant or are using the treatment to manage a health issue that doctors have yet to diagnose.

How much a person pays for hydromassage depends on several factors, including where it takes place and the session duration.

Health insurance may not cover hydromassage treatment. However, some companies may make exceptions if hydromassage is part of physical therapy or rehabilitation, so it is worth a person asking about this.

If a medical insurance policy covers hydromassage, people may need to seek the treatment from a therapist on the insurer’s approved list.

It may be possible to get hydromassage as part of a gym membership. People can also buy at-home hydromassage devices, but these are expensive.

People may be able to access hydromassage at a spa or gym near them. This can be a good option for those trying it for the first time, as there will be professionals who can guide an individual through the process.

There may also be hydromassage practitioners in a person’s local area. Some physiotherapists, sports injury specialists, and chiropractors may offer the service as an add-on.

It is important for people to look for a reputable practitioner who is qualified to offer massage services and follows health and safety guidelines. A person can check online reviews or ask a trustworthy person for recommendations.

Hydromassage uses the pressure and temperature of water to massage various parts of the body. It may have similar benefits to other forms of massage. However, there is little research to confirm this.

People can get traditional hydromassage at a spa or other wellness facility. This involves getting into a pool of water with jets that release pressurized water. Alternatively, dry hydromassage beds and chairs offer the same use of water pressure without the body getting wet.

The cost of hydromassage varies depending on the location, duration, and purpose of the treatment. People should consult a doctor before hydromassage, particularly if they are pregnant or have any underlying health concerns.