What is fluidotherapy?

Fluidotherapy is a therapeutic modality for delivering non-penetrating heat to the extremities by combining warm forced air currents and cellulose particles. The treatments enhance flexibility and circulation while decreasing the need for anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications.

The enclosed unit houses heating beds to warm the air and fans for creating convention currents that move the cellulose particles the way that circulation pumps in whirlpools move the water. The air is warmed to a therapeutic temperature range of 100-125 degrees. The speed of the flow may be adjusted for the patient’s comfort. The flow of the air and cellulose may also be pulsed or continuous.

How does fluidotherapy work?

Fluidotherapy works by the combination of heated air and cellulose particles in a convection-formed vortex, creating a dry whirlpool. As with water whirlpool tubs, the impacted area receives warmth, buoyancy, sensory stimulation and a massage that relieves discomfort and increases circulation.

To use a fluidotherapy unit, the physical therapist preheats the unit and sets the temperature according to the patient’s tolerance level. The patient removes rings, watches or bracelets and then washes the body part to be treated to avoid contamination of the cellulose particles. After visually inspecting the skin for open wounds, the physical therapist has the patient insert the affected extremity into the fluidotherapy machine and sets the timer. Treatments last between 15 and 20 minutes when the peak temperature is reached. While the patient uses the machine, he or she performs exercises to alleviate pain and stiffness as well as increase range of motion. Hand exercises may include the use of a non-metal ball to facilitate strength development as well.

After the patient has removed himself from the unit, the temperature may be raised to sterilize the medium, preventing cross-contamination.

Who uses fluidotherapy?

Patients living with non-rheumatoid arthritis, joint stiffness, bursitis, muscle stiffness, edema, limited range of motion and minor localized pain can benefit from fluidotherapy, while this unique therapy can also aid in decreasing skin hypersensitivity in those with sensory processing disorders. It may additionally be utilized to provide relief for spasticity caused by disorders such as MS (multiple sclerosis).

When used with exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist, fluidotherapy can increase range of motion in stiff joints. It may be used for post-trauma pain relief or to ease the discomfort of chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Thanks to the increased blood flow through the smallest blood vessels, people living with sickle cell anemia benefit as well from reduced pain and increased range of motion.

Other conditions that may respond favorably to fluidotherapy include Raynaud’s disease, post-fracture discomfort and chronic tendonitis.

Fluidotherapy patients experience increased blood flow to the affected area which leads to decreases in pain and stiffness.

It is contraindicated for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, conditions such as neuropathy that interfere with the ability to sense heat and cold, open lesions such as sores on the feet or hands, cancerous lesions, circulation problems due to blockages in the vascular system, or when a patient has a fever or infectious disease. Patients with allergies need to be aware that the cellulose medium that delivers the heat is made from shredded corn cobs. Patients who are elderly or who have certain skin conditions that cause thinning may not be able to use the units.

Where are the fluidotherapy units used?

Fluidotherapy units may be found in hospital-based and freestanding physical therapy and occupational therapy centers.

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