For people who suffer from arthritis, chronic back pain or pain due to some type of spinal cord injury, relief may be in sight. Thanks to aquatic physical therapy, aches and pains can be addressed and remedied in the water. In some cases, patients will be transitioned from water-based therapy to a rehabilitation program on land, while others will complete all of their therapy in the water. Either way, aquatic therapy is an ideal option for anyone looking to get back to their old, pain-free self again.
Why Water is Better
Physical and occupational therapists have known about the connection between water and healing for decades. Regardless of the type of injury or chronic pain that people have, getting into water heated to around 92 degrees will help them achieve full-body functioning. For example, water is naturally buoyant, which lessens the force of gravity and allows people to perform their exercises much more easily than on land. In addition, exercising in warm water can help alleviate discomfort by helping relax tight and sore muscles, reducing the occurrence of spasms and boosting blood flow. Sometimes aquatic therapy is the only time patients can enjoy some blessed pain-free moments. As a bonus, water acts as a natural weight (600-700 times more resistant than air), providing a terrific source of resistance to strengthen muscles—including the body’s most important muscle, the heart.
In addition to joint or back issues, aquatic physical therapy is an outstanding option for other health conditions, including musculoskeletal disorders, gait or walking issues and people who are recovering from a stroke or brain injury. In general, those who take part in aquatic physical therapy often show a marked increase in their healing. They notice improved flexibility, better stamina, improved circulation and an increase in their body’s tolerance for other therapeutic exercises.
Aquatic physical therapy can also be modified depending on the physical abilities of the people who are doing it. For example, those suffering from osteoporosis may find it easier and more effective to stand in water that reaches the chest so they can work on resistant-style exercises. Another benefit of aquatic physical therapy, notes Helen Hayes Hospital, is a marked improvement in balance. Because the water pushes up against the body in an even way, it allows people to practice standing and moving around while being supported by H2O. Water is also buoyant and forgiving enough that if a person feels like they’re about to fall, there’s usually enough time to react and regain equilibrium.
Aquatic Therapy Anywhere
While patients might feel frustrated trying to complete traditional physical therapy in a gym or facility, chances are good they will feel comfortable doing the exercises in a private pool. If a patient doesn’t have a pool at their home, easy-to-maintain above ground pools are a relatively inexpensive purchase to be able to have private therapy sessions in the comfort of one’s own backyard. Just make sure to install a pool solar heating system to regulate the water temperature. Aquatic therapy helps most patients feel better both physically and emotionally.
This article is from Anne Sanchez. Anne is a sports doctor, and swimming teacher. She’s married with 2 kids, and has 2 cats.