Benefits of Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic therapy is treatment and exercises performed in water for relaxation, fitness, physical rehabilitation, and other therapeutic benefits. Therapeutic exercises may include upper extremity, lower extremity, and overall resistance training. A physical therapist may be needed to help determine what exercises would be most beneficial and provide education for safe and appropriate progression.   

Added Resistance
One advantage of using water is that resistance is placed on all sides of the body in motion. When out of the water, one would need to complete two or three different exercises to get the same results. Also while in the water, buoyancy, weights, and even general movements can be used for added resistance. 

Strength and Stability
Water exercises may focus on core strength and stability. A person with balance difficulties may use the water to improve their response to unsteadiness. The water can assist the person to stand, but it can also be resistive or create turbulence to cause greater challenge to balance or proprioception. Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of one’s own body parts and strength of effort being involved in movement.  

Water Depth
Water depth will have an effect on the participant’s weight bearing status. A person in water that is waist deep is 50% weight bearing on all joints below the water surface. A depth of chest deep is the person being 20-25% weight bearing on joints below the water. In deep water, where a participant cannot touch the bottom of the pool, the person would be 0% weight bearing and have a traction effect on the spine. 

The depth of water will have an impact on the participant’s tolerance to exercises. If the person has increased pain in their knees, hips, ankles, or spine with walking on land, then the depth of water may allow them to exercise without increased pain but still allow for building of strength or cardiovascular endurance. 

Cardiovascular Benefits
Another effect aquatic therapy has on the body is hydrostatic pressure, which is when the water is acting like a body glove of compression. This would cause the lungs and heart to work harder and ultimately have cardiovascular benefits. 

Pain Reduction
When pain prevents movement from occurring, this can limit a person’s progress in rehabilitation. Aquatic therapy may allow greater motion and quicker results. When tactile sensor neurons are over stimulated, then the constant stimulus from the water can shut off the pain sensation. Increased blood flow would help compensate for poor circulation in extremities and promote healing.

Muscle Relaxation
Finally, muscle relaxation is another benefit from the warmth of water and exercises without causing extra strain and impact to muscles, cartilage or connective tissues. For relaxation and physical rehab, the water temperature should be between 83 degrees and 90 degrees according to the Arthritis Foundation recommendations. 

Diagnoses that may be appropriate for aquatic therapy include osteoarthritis in any joint, low back pain, cervical pain, and any diagnosis with increased fall risk involved like Parkinson’s disease. 

Water is fun and can make rehabilitation and exercise more enjoyable. Jump in and give it a try! Columbus Regional Health offers warm water classes that are ideal for chronic pain, fibromyalgia, total joint replacements, and post rehabilitation patients. You can also follow you own workout plan during open pool times. The warm water therapy pool is located at our Marr Road outpatient therapy facility located at 940 N. Marr Road, Columbus. Register through Columbus Parks and Recreation at 812-376-2680.

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