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History of hydrotherapy in Gräfenberg hill

History of hydrotherapy in Gräfenberg hill

Vincenz Priessnitz was the first who brought patients from musty rooms to open air and under sun. He returned them health and gave them joy of life with help of cold water, exercising and modification of regimen.

Vincenz Priessnitz began healing his first patients in 1819 in Jesenik area called Gräfenberg. The initial curing included application of cold compresses and poultices or sprinkling of affected areas. He cured contusions, sprains and external wounds. These methods were already known from time immemorial, but Vincenz Priessnitz added his own procedures. “Sweating cure” was one of them. V. Priessnitz used it in particular with curing of chronic diseases. He left the patient to sweat in the bed and then he immersed him into a laundry tub with cold water for a short time. Later, in addition to simple sweating cures, he added frequently repeated applications of cold water. These included mostly total baths connected with rubbing of skin, or half-baths, paddling in water, sitting baths, baths of limbs, baths of eyes, total and partial cold showers, drinking of cold spring water, sometimes also cold water intestinal clysm.

Half-bath was applied in sitting or standing positions. Later there were applied single-phase and double-phase half-baths in sitting positions and their historic form is still used today due to their excellent healing effects.


Showers under a “mountain stream waterfall” were installed on the Gräfenberg hill. Patients had to come to these showers by fast march to be warmed up thoroughly. As soon as their breath and heart calmed down, they had to take off their clothes and enter the shower (rather a small waterfall, where water was falling from height of 1.5 to 3.5 meters).

Fresh spring water was used in healing cures quite much, even internally. At least 12 glasses of water (2.4 litres) were served to meals every day and the diet was very simple.

V. Priessnitz realised that there exists a relation of skin to internal organs and total body and in its diagnostics and curing was based on the nature and reaction of skin to the cold test that he applied with all his patients. Curing took on average several weeks, sometimes many months and even several years.

Vincenz Priessnitz forbad talking about diseases among patients, he was giving individual interviews and laid emphasis on social meetings and participation in musical and other events that formed part of the curing stay. He was the first who integrated motional cure (individual and group) with hydrotherapy, diet, curing through work, musical therapy and psychotherapy.

Priessnitz discovery of effects of pure natural forces on people and their health is timeless message for the contemporary world disturbed by hectic rush and nervousness and yearning for peace and inner balance.

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