Water therapy also referred to as aquatic therapy, is a well-known therapeutic and rehabilitation modality, but remains a rarely utilized and often overlooked treatment option. The purpose of this article is to offer the reader with further information concerning the purpose, benefits, and contraindications for aquatic exercises that are offered at our Rehabilitation Center.
Purpose of Aquatic Therapy
To enhance, restore, and increase the patient’s functional abilities for conditions and or diagnoses which may be acute, sub-acute, or chronic, while performed in a heated pool which offers these specific components:
• The pool is heated to 93-95 degrees F., which offers a relaxing and soothing environment to muscles and joints, allowing for improved joint range of motion. Whirlpool jets act to massage sore muscles and injured body parts.
• The pool offers buoyancy or assistance and support to the injured body part(s). This allows a decrease in gravitational forces placed on weak or injured limbs which cannot accept as much weight or force on dry land. Buoyancy allows a patient to move more freely with decreased stress on the muscles, bones, and joints.
• The pool enhances hydrostatic pressure as the water surrounding the injured body part(s) helps to improve circulation, which often reduces swelling in the limbs as the blood is squeezed through the vessels back toward the heart. A reduction in swelling of the extremities can occur, which in turn reduces joint and soft tissue tenderness and can promote an increase in range of motion.
• The water in the pool offers resistance in all directions, contrary to movement on land which is predominantly gravity-resisted. The resistance to movement in the water leads to the development of muscle strength, promotes improvement in dynamic balance, and further enhances sensory awareness of injured body parts.
Benefits of Aquatic Therapy
The benefits of Aquatic Therapy are patient-specific, but are numerous and may include: reduction in pain, improved range of motion, reduction of muscle spasms and/or tone, increase in muscular strength and endurance, improved balance and coordination, improved sensory integration/awareness, increase in cardiovascular and musculoskeletal endurance, early mobilization of an injured or post-operative body part, early gait re-education post-injury or post-surgery, and/or improvement in postural alignment.
Precautions / Contradictions
Open Wounds/Cuts; skin infection; incontinence; allergy to chlorine/chemicals; catheter; other infections which may include flu, CI, sore throat, urinary tract/bladder; Communicable diseases; patient extreme fear of water; severe balance disorders; severe “seasickness”.
Contact our specialists at Spine Center Atlanta to discover how aquatic therapy can help you.