Hydro massage is a water-based spa treatment which uses high pressure jets of water to massage your skin and stimulate your circulation.
A hydro massage is much more powerful than a Jacuzzi or a whirlpool bath, and the water used will be hotter. This is a treatment rather than an experience.
What is hydro massage good for?
A good hydro massage is a very satisfying treatment - you can feel it working even as you're having it. A rigorous underwater massage, the powerful jets stimulate your circulation and get blood and lymph moving around your body, and to the surface of your skin.
The heat of the water opens and cleanses your pores, so you'll find your skin looks and feels cleansed, refreshed and invigorated.
A hydro massage soothes, relaxes and relieves pain in your joints and muscles.
Hydro massage can leave you feeling quite tired. Research shows that we sleep more deeply as our body temperature falls, so a hot-water hydromassage before you go to bed can really improve your night's sleep.
Watsu is a type of shiatsu massage treatment carried out under or with warm water. The massage uses deep acupressure techniques and long slow rhythmic strokes. The therapist will also work on some stretches with you. Combined with the warmth of the water, watsu should leave you feeling very relaxed and really tackle any muscle aches and pains.
Before you go
As with all water therapies, you should check with the spa beforehand to see what you are expected to wear. Some places will be happy for you to use the pools naked; others will ask you to wear a swimming costume.
Whilst you may be on your own, hydro massage will take place in a pool that will be used by other people at the spa, so you will probably be asked to have a shower or bath before you go in. This is particularly important if you've had a treatment; no-one wants to be massaged in the additional minerals of the salt and oil rub you had beforehand!
This is not an ideal treatment for pregnant women, or for young or older people. The water can be quite hot and the massage strong and is liable to be a bit much for anyone who is a bit frail or fragile.
It may not be ideal either for anyone who has recently had an injury or surgery.
You should also seek advice from the spa or therapist if you:
have severe or acute muscular or joint injuries
have any medical conditions or are receiving a course of treatment or medication
have high blood pressure or heart problems.
Because it is quite a rigorous treatment, it's a good idea not to have a big meal or alcohol beforehand, and to build in time afterwards to have a swim, shower or a treatment.
What to expect from hydro massage
At some spas, the hydro massage pool will be one in a series of others and you will be carried to each in a particular order, with each pool tailored to massage a different part of your body. The pool will already be up and whirling when you get to it. At other spas, you can have more control and choose from a series of jets and whirls and have some fun working out what's what and where it whooshes!
Whichever you have, you'll experience a variety of different water pressures - from soft, caressing bubbles to high-powered jets of water, pulsing and pumping at different parts of your body at a time. Your neck, back, legs and limbs may all be massaged in turn.
Apart from the pressure and movement, certain temperatures of water are supposed to bring different health benefits. Hot water helps to relax the muscles and increase blood flow, as well as opening the pores of your skin. If you are having a mineral hydro massage, salts will be best absorbed when the water is at the same temperature as your body. Cold hydromassage is supposed to be good for toning your muscles and improving skin tone.
If you are lucky enough to have a consultant at the spa, they may be able to tell you about exercises and movements that you can do while you're in the pool that will increase its benefits.
Usually, you can expect to be in the pool on your own, and you can stay there for as long as you want to.
If you're going to a spa, always make sure you take advantage of their water therapies and facilities. Often you can just pay to use the facilities for a few hours. If you're having a ritual or combined treatment, this will probably be included in the price. But often, if you're having a single treatment you'll be able to get use of facilities for about a third of the price, or less. It will really extend the luxury of your day.
Our Good Spa spies came up with a number of adjectives to describe how they felt after their hydro massage. "Hungry" was one; "puzzled" was another; "really thirsty"; "fun"; "awake", "relieved", "ready for bed", "really relaxed". Our conclusion was that hydro pools vary depending on where you go, and what you're looking for. Some people really love the rigors of a hydro-massage; others prefer something gentler.
A good hydro massage is fun, relaxing and you can really feel it doing you good. If you're unlucky and you go to a poor one, you might find that what is described as a hydro-massage pool is basically just a jacuzzi. If you're really unlucky, you may feel like you've been through a spin-cycle in the washing machine.
As with all spa treatments, find out anything you can beforehand; you tend to get what you pay for.
We reckon it's a good idea to do something else afterwards to relax, whether this is a swim, or a body treatment is up to you.
Having opened up your pores and had the massage, we suggest you follow on with a aromatherapy bath or a facial... and maybe some sparkling water and a bag of crisps!
Different types of hydro massage
There are variations on the theme of hydro-massage.
Aromatic hydro massage
An aromatic hydro massage is one in which the water is scented with essential oils for a more sensual experience.
Mineral hydro massage
Some spas offer hydro pools filled with mineral water for a really expensive clean! Others contain sea- or other salts and minerals which offer different benefits to your body.