A day at the spa... in your own backyard
WHEN Lynn Philips originally installed a jetted hot tub in 1989, it was purely for relaxation. But 21 years later, a soak in her hot tub delivers an added benefit by providing relief for her arthritis.
She’s not alone. Many arthritis sufferers don’t start their day without a soak in the morning. Immersion in hot water dilates blood vessels, relaxes tight muscles and releases endorphins — the body’s natural painkillers. It also serves as a great stress reliever.
“Enjoy it while you have it,” says Philips, who is enjoying her third jetted tub. “It helped relieve the stress when I was recovering from my knee transplants.”
Hot tubs and spas have a natural appeal to people living in a colder climate, says Grant Gislason, who started off in the industry by custom-building hot tubs with wood from recycled wine barrels more than 30 years ago in Victoria.
“You have buoyancy and you have warmth. How much more therapeutic can you get?” says Gislason, now owner of Vintage Hot Tubs.
He points out “today’s spas are a far cry from yesterday’s hot tubs.”
Most spas have high-pressure jet nozzles that direct pulsating water toward sore muscles and joints. Jets are commonly clustered to deliver pressure to massage specific groups of nerves and muscles, such as the neck, shoulders, back or feet. Modern jets are more sophisticated, with different designs and sizes for different areas of the body.
While spas can be lavish, equipped with dozens of jets, bubblers, lights, waterfalls, stereos and even pop-up flat-screen televisions, their cost isn’t much more than units made 15 years ago. They are more energy-efficient as well, thanks to advances in insulation, pump motors, electronics, construction and materials.
While some units can cost more than $40,000, their hefty price tags have more to do with options some people demand. More jets in a spa mean it needs more motors, which can cost up to $700 each. They then require extra electronics to run.
However, the typical spa that sold for $15,000 15 years ago costs the same today. Whirlpool spas start at $5,000 but the average selling price is generally between $8,000 and $10,000.
While she doesn’t have the original bill for her first tub, Philips finds the cost comparable — as long as one does not add more options to the tub.
“If you get all the bells and whistles — the lights, the waterfall — it can be costly,” she says.
Sizes and shapes vary, from compact models that seat two intimately, to party tubs that can accommodate more than a dozen. By far the most popular model is a five-to six-person unit that holds about 1,500 litres of water.
Still, the romantic image of a wooden barrel hot tub with water heated by a wood-burning stove endures, with several companies still selling a model in the familiar barrel shape, but with modern electronics and features.
Jetted hot tubs can be inexpensive to operate. Energy is used to power the pump that produces the jetted water, and also to heat the water. A well-insulated spa with a tight-fitting rigid insulating cover will lose only two or three degrees a day. If the spa is well-insulated, the cost of keeping the heater on when the spa is not in use is small.
To reduce growth of bacteria, it’s advisable to run the pump at least twice a day for four to six hours. Water must be tested regularly, two or three times a week, to adjust disinfectant levels. Filters should be cleaned once a month.
While physiotherapists agree on the benefits of heat for sufferers of osteoarthritis, they stop short of recommending their patients go out to buy a hot tub or jetted whirlpool.
“Research shows heat can help dilate blood vessels (and thus) increase blood flow to affected areas,” says Scott Simpson, a physiotherapist and former Canadian running champion.
“But one can get the same benefits — at less cost — from soaking in a hot bathtub.” He says the jets found on most whirlpools might feel good, but there is no evidence, for or against, that they fix anything.
He cautions any therapeutic benefit of introducing heat to an area to loosen up muscles does not apply after one sustains an injury, such as a sprain. In that case, the patient should put ice on the affected area to decrease swelling.
--Canwest News Service
Lynn Philips says her hot tub helps relieve her arthritis.