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Hot Tub Hydrotherapy 101

There are many reasons why people buy hot tubs. Some might simply want a place to unwind and relax after a long day, while others are looking to relieve tired, aching muscles. If you’re buying a hot tub for pain relief, you’re going to want to make sure that the hot tub you purchase provides a great hydrotherapy experience. That’s why we’ve come up with this handy guide showing you how to determine which hot tub has the massage that’s right for you!

What Are The Components Of A Good Hydrotherapy Experience?

So how do you tell which hot tubs are good for hydrotherapy and which aren’t? In our opinion, the perfect hydrotherapy hot tub has to have:

  • Power. You need enough power coming out of the jets to properly massage the muscle.
  • Balance. All of the jets should have the same amount of power.
  • Accuracy. The jets should massage be properly placed so they’re hitting the right muscles.
  • Customization. You should be able to vary your massage based on your personal preferences.
  • The Right Fit. The hot tub should be able to seat everyone in your family. The hot tub seats should also be the right depth for you to sit comfortably in.

Now that we know what we want, how can we tell which hot tubs provide it? To answer that, you’ll need to look at the individual components of the hot tub massage system; specifically the jet pumps, plumbing, and jets.

Massage Pumps

When it comes to hot tub hydrotherapy, it all starts with the massage pumps. If the massage pumps aren’t strong enough, the jets simply won’t have enough power to provide a proper massage.

When determining the power of a massage pump, ignore its horsepower rating favour of its flow rate, measured in gallons per minute or GPM. This is important because horsepower is just a measurement of how much power the pump consumes and not how much water it can move. This is an important distinction as two pumps with identical horsepower ratings can have very different flow rates. For example, Hydropool’s 4HP AquaFlo pumps generate a massage current of 180GPM while most other 4HP pumps can only generate around 140GPM. This makes a massive difference in the overall power of the massage that you experience.

Jet pumps are a crucial component of the hydrotherapy system. The more water they can move, the more power the jets will have.


Although most hot tub buyers don’t really put much thought into the plumbing layout of a hot tub, plumbing can make a big difference in the quality of a massage; both in terms of power and balance.

Plumbing design is a very complex (and frankly not very interesting) topic that we won’t get into here. The only thing you really need to understand is that the longer the distance the water has to travel from the pumps to the jets, the more power the current will lose. Too many 90 degree elbows in the plumbing can also really negatively affect massage power.

Not only does inefficient plumbing design cause your hot tub’s hydrotherapy system to lose power, it can also lead to varying power between jets with ones closer to the pumps being at full power and others that are further away left feeling noticeably weaker.

When looking at hot tubs, take a moment to look inside the cabinet. If you see a ton of 90-degree elbows and needlessly long plumbing runs, you can be pretty sure that that hot tub will not be ideal for hydrotherapy.

Massage Jets

The massage jets are probably the most important component of a hot tub’s hydrotherapy experience. They’re also the most visible. This makes determining good and bad jet design easier than pumps and plumbing. When looking at a hot tub’s jets there are 3 things you should be considering.

1) The Number Of Jets

More jets doesn’t necessarily lead to a better massage. While you definitely want to make sure that there are plenty of jets, there is such a thing as too many. How is it possible for a hot tub to have too many jets? Simply put, there is only so much water coming out of the jet pumps. For every jet you add you therefore also remove a bit of power from the others. Add too many jets and you end up with a very underpowered massage.

So how many jets should a hot tub have? It depends on the number of massage pumps the hot tub has. Generally speaking, you don’t want there to be more than 30 jets for every massage pump.

Another thing to consider when looking at jet count is the number of jets there are per seat. A small 2-3 person hot tub with 30 jets can provide a better massage than an 8 person hot tub with 45-50 because there are more jets in every seat.

The total number of jets is less important than the number of jets that are in each seat.

2) The Placement Of The Jets

If the hot tub jets don’t massage the right spots they’re not really doing much good. Look for jets that are arranged to follow the natural curves of your body (wider at the shoulders, narrower down the back) rather than ones laid out in geometric shapes like straight lines or diamonds. While these arrangements can look impressive, they don’t provide any real therapeutic benefit and can get uncomfortable over time.

3) The Size Of The Jets

The size of the massage jets are also important. The larger the muscle group a jet is targeting, the larger it should be. Jets targeting your neck, wrists, and legs should be small to ensure that they’re hitting the right spots. Jets targeting your back should be larger to ensure that they properly treat the whole muscle.


Everyone is different. That’s why it is crucial that you be able to customize your hot tub hydrotherapy experience to suit your taste. At a minimum, you should be able to vary the power of the massage in the hot tub. Hot tubs built specifically for hydrotherapy will also typically allow you to go further; offering several different jet types that can be easily removed and swapped out with other jets so that you can put your favourite jets in your favourite seat! They also will vary the heights of their seats so that people of different heights will be able to enjoy a targeted massage.

Hydropool, for example, offers multi-level seating in all of their hot tubs. They also allow you to vary the power all the jets at once and adjust the power of each jet individually. They have 8 different massage jet types; each that provides a unique massage experience. These different jet types can be easily swapped out with similarly sized jets of a different type, allowing you to customize your experience to suit your tastes.

The Right Fit

Hot tubs come in a variety of sizes and depths. Depending on the size of your family, and how tall they are, each hot tub will fit you slightly differently. What looks like a great hot tub on paper might end up being too small, too shallow or too deep once installed. How can you avoid this? Book a wet test before you buy!

A wet test allows you to try out the hot tub before you buy it. Not only will you be able to tell for sure if the hot tub has the hydrotherapy experience you’re looking for, it will also help you determine if the hot tub itself is the right size and fit for your family.


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