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Why Aquatic Therapy?

Posted on 08/23/21 by Michael in Peter B. Lewis Aquatic Center

Aquatic therapy offers unique benefits that can be a powerful tool when properly utilized. When used by the right patient at the right time aquatic therapy can help promote healing and restore function. Gaining an understanding of how this unique treatment environment can be beneficial can help you to make an informed decision as to whether or not aquatic therapy is the right choice for you.

First, let’s address this common question – what’s the difference is between aquatic therapy and physical therapy? Aquatic therapy is actually not separate from Physical Therapy, rather, it is a type of physical therapy that is performed in a pool. Aquatic therapy uses the same treatment principles and is applied by the same professionals, but with the added benefit of the effects of the water. These added benefits create a more comfortable environment for patients who are otherwise unable to tolerate exercise on land. This occurs because of several benefits from the effects of water including:

  • Reduced Weightbearing: Water reduces the weight on the joints allowing for exercise with less pain.
  • Reduced Pain: The thermal effect of warm water can reduce pain and muscle spasms.
  • Reduced Swelling: The hydrostatic pressure of water can help to reduce swelling.
  • Cardiovascular Benefits: Water improves cardiac efficiency, allowing patients to achieve cardiovascular training effects with less workload.
  • Safe Training Environment: The density of water makes it a safe environment to improve balance and practice walking with less assistance.

Reduced Weightbearing

One of the main benefits of aquatic therapy comes from the buoyancy effect of water. When submerged in water, the buoyancy effect reduces the load on your joints during exercise. Studies have shown that running in water can reduce these forces by 40% at hip depth and almost 50% at chest depth when compared to running on land. This low impact environment can allow for a faster return to functional movements and even sport related activities after surgery. If needed, the pool can also be used to completely eliminate weightbearing with the use of floatation devices, which can alleviate pain and allow for an improved tolerance to exercise. With the reduced load on the joints and an improved tolerance to activity, the pool creates a perfect environment to achieve the health benefits from exercise.

Why Aquatic Therapy?

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Reduced Pain

A common population that benefits from aquatic therapy is patients who are experiencing pain. Whether it is new pain or persistent pain, a warm water pool can help provide a thermal effect to reduce pain and muscle spasms. This warm, therapeutic environment provides a unique opportunity for patients to simulate functional activities in a reduced pain or pain-free way, allowing them to regain the motor control needed to return to these activities. Furthermore, for patients with persistent pain who are looking to increase their overall fitness levels, the pool provides an ideal environment to achieve this with less pain.

Reduced Swelling

Hydrostatic pressure is another important property of water and an added benefit to performing aquatic therapy. The hydrostatic pressure from water provides a constant compression on the body that increases with the depth of the water and can reduce swelling. This benefit makes it an ideal environment for managing swelling and lymphedema, while allowing for ease of movement.

Why Aquatic Therapy?

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Cardiovascular Benefits

Aquatic therapy also has cardiovascular benefits, allowing for patients to achieve a cardiovascular training effect with less workload. Being submerged in warm water allows the blood vessels to dilate causing less resistance to blood flow, while the hydrostatic pressure of water helps to increase the return of blood and lymphatic fluid from the extremities. These changes lead to reduced blood pressure and an increased amount of blood pumped with each heart contraction, also known as stroke volume, which causes a more efficient cardiovascular response at a reduced heart rate.

Why Aquatic Therapy?

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Safe Training Environment

With a viscosity more than 700 times that of air, water allows for increased reaction time to safely perform exercises, challenge balance, and practice difficult functional movements. The added safety of this environment can allow patients to practice walking with less need for assistance or assistive devices, as well as an increased ability to focus on the quality of these movements. It also creates an ideal environment to perform advanced balance exercises safely as patients will have an increased time to recover their balance.

These unique benefits of aquatic therapy can be useful for patients with a large variety of conditions across a wide range of functional abilities and fitness levels. Using these benefits to our advantage, patients can reduce their pain, increase their activity levels, and achieve their goals.

At the Peter B. Lewis Aquatic & Therapy Center, our focus is on you and to help you feel better and maximize your potential. Interested in learning more about our aquatic therapy services or want to become a member? Visit our website or contact Michael Groesch for more information.

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