Hydrotherapy for Mind and Body: Hot Tubs and Spas Hydrotherapy for Mind and Body: Hot Tubs and Spas

Over the last few decades, many people have been discovering the relaxing and rejuvenating effects of spas and hot tubs. What was once a major social gathering place for Ancient Romans or a soothing meditation technique for the Japanese has been brought into more and more private homes. Hydro-massage provides the perfect antidote to a stressful day, relaxing muscles and calming nerves. Spending a few minutes in hot water is a well-known tonic. When kept at a temperature of 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit, it stimulates circulation by slowing the pulse, dilating blood vessels and stirring the heart to increased efficiency.

Hot tubs had their heyday in the 1970s, though there are people who still prefer them for a number of reasons. Because they’re made of wood - typically redwood, cedar or teak - they blend well into natural landscapes and their appearance can complement garden plants and trees. They have greater gallon-holding capacity than most spas, which allows for a deeper soak. The wood also provides a musty scent and soothing feel that many people enjoy.

Some of the reasons why hot tubs fell into disfavor include concerns about their sanitation (wood, being a natural material, can harbor bacteria) and the resulting need for consistent draining and scrubbing every few months. We also need to carefully maintain water chemistry so that overuse of hygienic chemicals doesn't damage the wood, and take care that when the tub is drained it's not allowed to dry out. Even with the best of care, hot tubs will eventually start leaking - though we can put off this inevitability for about 15 years with redwood and as many as 30 with more expensive and higher-quality teak.

These kinds of maintenance issues led to the development of spas, which originally were made of concrete blocks and all in-ground. Because the blocks were difficult to smooth for curves, and their edges tended to gather dirt, this design soon gave way to poured concrete and then gunite, a blown mix of sand and cement. Eventually, technology brought us the lightweight and molded thermoplastic spa shell. Spas remain more expensive than hot tubs and require more setting up, which often involves a contractor's help for installation and electrical needs. Still, as time goes on spas become more feasible for increasing numbers of people.

Portable spas, a newer innovation, are typically cheaper than their in-ground cousins. They are also self-contained, with all their necessary support equipment included as part of the package. They're viewed as more of a giant appliance rather than a home improvement, so they don't impact upon one's taxes; nor do they typically require building permits. Weighing generally 300-500 pounds, they can be moved to different locations or to different areas of the property (for example, from deck to indoor sauna) with enough manpower.

Advances in technology and craftsmanship have brought the pleasures and health benefits of hot tubs and spas to more people than ever before. We also have, now, a greater range of choices. We can tailor our experience to the materials and styles we prefer - whether wood, cement or plastic, in-ground or portable, deep or shallow. This range of options allows us to choose a hot tub or spa that will complement the space we live in as well as providing a relaxing and healing refuge from the stress of our daily lives.


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