Hydrotherapy Room Podcast


Hi, I'm ranger Mark Blaeuer at the Fordyce, which has been the visitor center for Hot Springs National Park since 1989. It functioned as a bathhouse between 1915 and 1962.

We're standing in the hydrotherapy room right now, which featured advanced hydrotherapeutic equipment. Not every bathhouse had one of these type rooms; this was one of the better bathhouses.

This is the electric light bath or sun ray cabinet, and it actually had mirrors and incandescent bulbs inside, to provide dry heat. You would sit on a stool inside the cabinet, and this could be cranked up to a pretty high temperature. Exactly how high would depend on what your doctor's orders specified.

The next stop would have been the frigid cabinet, where there was a block of ice under your seat, and that would cool you down quickly. You could also take a cooling needle shower. The nozzles at all different angles and levels would provide cooled spring water, dousing you from all different angles.

The hot/cold treatment was also one of the philosophies behind the hydrotherapy control table, sometimes called a Scotch douche. The attendant would stand where I am, and the patient would stand over by the needle shower. Old photographs we have sometimes show people holding onto that. Not only could there be fair pressure involved with this, but it would have been fairly wet in here. You can tell by the size of the drain in the floor. There were all sorts of levers and dials and gauges to keep track of, and they used hydrotherapy manuals to guide them as they conducted jet, fan, spinal, spray douches, and the ever-popular Scotch douche, which was alternating blasts of hot and cooled water.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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