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April 2017
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Often, and especially in health farms and spas, you hear people talk about Kneipp baths, or hydrotherapy treatments during which you alternate the use of hot and cold water, but where does the name come from?

The name comes from a treatment developed in the last century by Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) who used hydrotherapy, but he also used other important therapeutic aspects in combination with hydrotherapy.


Sebastian Kneipp was born in Baveria in 1821 into a very poor family. He worked as an animal keeper on a farm but, as he grew up, all he wanted to do was study and become a priest. He was very lucky and he found a sponsor and so, at 23 years old, he began to study. However, the poverty he had experienced during his childhood had weakened him physically and he got ill with tuberculosis, which was a deadly disease in those days. Fortunately though, in the King’s library in Munich, which Kneipp had access to for his studies, he found an old book written by a doctor from the countryside of Silesia and the healing properties of water were listed in this book. Kneipp decided to follow the described methods and he began to immerse himself for a few seconds every day in the winter into the ice cold water of the Danube. A miracle happened and he recovered. After finishing his studies, he was invited to the Wörishofen Monastery where he began to treat other monks and people who had heard of him.

Kneipp Therapy

The fundamental aspect of Kneipp Therapy is to consider a person as an undissolvable entity of body and mind. In order to improve the body’s resistance and ability to adapt to the different requirements of life, harmony of all physical, intellectual and spiritual functions is sought.

Kneipp Therapy is based on five columns:

  1. hydrotherapy
  2. phytotherapy
  3. dietetics
  4. movement
  5. an orderly life, or, as we say nowadays, a balanced life style.

As you can see, Kneipp already had a complete vision about strengthening the body’s resistance in the 1800s, and this is something that is still apparent even today. What is more, even though the methods used were drastic, they healed many of the Father’s problems, and today they are used in more mild forms and under the supervision of a doctor.

The physiological foundations of hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is based on thermal and mechanical effects. The nervous system carries stimuli that are felt by the skin inside the body and this stimulates the immune system, causes gastric and hormonal secretion and strengthens the cardiovascular system. The heat calms and soothes the body and slows down the actions of the internal organs. The cold, on the other hand, stimulates and invigorates the body, increasing internal activities. Changing between hot and cold water reduces stress and stimulates the body and mind.


This treatment must be carried out carefully and under medical supervision, especially if the patient is diabetic, elderly or pregnant.


Techniques vary a lot and include hot and cold showers and baths which, in turn, involve both full and partial immersion. Quite often, as was the case for original Kneipp therapy, herbs and minerals are used (such as, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and chamomile).

TEMPERATURE The temperature of the skin is normally 33.5°C, and different temperatures create different feelings:

Very cold














Very hot

  • Cold baths (or showers): 10-21°C, you can stay under for a few seconds or even a few minutes. Should be accompanied by a massage. These have stimulating and vasoconstriction effects.
  • Neutral baths: 34°C, these have a soporific effect, they relax the muscles and cause vasodilatation.
  • Hot baths: these are particularly good for patients with chronic arthrosis, and patients with muscle contractures benefit from them immediately. They are not recommended for people suffering from haemorrhoids.
  • Other variants, which include contrast baths (one leg immersed in hot water and the other in cold water) and other techniques.

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