In the Wellbeing Centres as well as in the Spas the Kneipp Baths – hydro therapy treatments based on the alternation of cold and hot water – are very frequently available.
But what about the etymology of this name?
It derives from a therapy developed in the 1800's by Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) including hydro therapy as well as other important therapies.
Sebastian Kneipp was born in Bavaria in 1821 to a very poor family. Though he worked as an animal guardian in a stock-farm, his only wish was to study and become a priest. He was lucky: found a sponsor and began studying at the age of 23. But poverty during his childhood had weakened his organism and Sebastian fell ill with tubercolosis, which was a lethal illness at that time.
In the King's library in Munich (where he was allowed to enter), he found an old book written by a country doctor from Silesia describing the healing properties of water.
The young Kneipp decided to follow those methods and began bathing every day in winter for a few seconds in the icy water of the Danube. The "miracle" had happened: he recovered!
After ending his studies he was transferred to the Monastery of Woerischofen where he treated other monks and gradually more and more persons who had heard about his therapy.
The Kneipp therapy
One of the foundations of the Kneipp therapy is to consider the human being as an indissoluble unit of soul and body. In order to improve organism's resistance and capability to adapting itself at best to the different life needs one tries to harmonize all physical, intellectual and spiritual functions.
The Kneipp therapy is based on five columns:
A well-balanced life style.
So, it stands to reason that, already during the 1800's, Kneipp had a unitary vision of the strengthening of organism's resistance. A highly topical conception. But Father Kneipp's methods, indeed very drastic, had several consequences for him; in fact nowadays they are applied in more gentle versions and under medical control.
The physiological basis of hydro therapy
Hydro therapy's mechanism is based on thermic and mechanical effects.
The nervous system carries into human body the stimulations perceived on the skin, while stimulating the immune system, influencing the gastric and hormone secretion and strengthening the cardio-vascular system.
Warmth calms down and relieves body by slowing down the activity of the internal organs. On the contrary, coldness stimulates and reinvigorates by increasing the internal activity.
Alternation of warmth and cold decreases stress and stimulates body and mind.
It must be carried out carefully and under medical control, especially in case of diabetes, elderly patients or pregnant women.
There are several different techniques including showers as well as warm and cold baths with total or partial immersion. According to the original therapy by Father Kneipp, some herbs (eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and camomile) together with minerals are frequently added.
Skin temperature is usually 33.5°C. Different temperatures produce different sensations: