What Is Aquatic Therapy and How it Helps

Brad Scott

Aquatic therapy, quite simply put, is using the physical qualities of water (in a pool in most cases) as a form of rehab or exercise. Once you and your physical therapist determine aquatic therapy is best for your goals, you must meet basic criteria, such as not being afraid of water and having no open wounds. The ability to swim is not crucial, as our pool is between three and five feet deep.

How does the pool help me?

There are many ways aquatic therapy can assist you in achieving your goals.

First is buoyancy. Standing in water literally takes pressure off of your joints and muscles to help increase your work capacity and assist with balance exercises. With water at waist high, roughly 50% of your body weight is lifted. When the water is at chest high, approximately 80% of your body weight is lifted. We can slowly progress from exercises at five feet of depth to three feet of depth to increase intensity by 30%. Also, with exercise tools such as pool noodles and foam dumbbells, buoyancy can either increase or decrease the exercise’s level of difficulty.

Second is viscosity. This is the resistance of the water as the body moves through. Patients can increase the resistance with exercise tools such as paddles. These tools increase the surface area in contact with the water, which is another tool at our disposal to increase exercise intensity.

Third is thermodynamics. This comes into play with a heated pool. Heat can transfer from the water and into the muscles and joints. This provides decreased pain and stiffness, which will allow the patient to increase their mobility while in the pool. This new mobility enables one to perform exercises they were not ready to perform on land.

The last property of water is hydrostatic pressure. This is the pressure put onto the body while submerged in a body of water. This pressure on the body can decrease swelling in the upper and mainly the lower extremities. This can lead to increased mobility and decreased stiffness.

Who benefits from aquatic therapy?

Patients who may benefit include, but are not limited to, those experiencing:

* Joint pain

* Mobility issues

* Balance deficits

* Weight bearing issues

* Sensory and tone issues

* Weakness

* Fatigue

* Those who have failed land therapy in the past

If you feel you could benefit from aquatic therapy, please call AzOPT Buckeye at 623-242-6908 or visit www.AzOPT.net.