A gentle and effective alternative to traditional, land-based physical therapy, aquatic physical therapy -- also known as aquatic therapy, hydrotherapy, or water therapy -- can help patients of all ages and fitness levels recover from an array of medical conditions.
In aquatic physical therapy, patients are guided in performing exercises in temperature-controlled pools under the supervision of licensed trained physical therapist and physical therapist assistant.
Using the natural properties of water can make balance and strengthening exercises more accessible and more effective for patients who may be unable to perform certain exercises on land.
The hydrostatic pressure of the water promotes circulation and blood flow to injured parts of the body, helps reduce inflammation, increases awareness of body positioning, and improves breath. The water’s buoyancy allows for pain-free movement and stability by minimizing weight and pressure on the joints and muscles and lessening the patient’s risk of falling.
The natural resistance created by the water can help build strength and endurance while encouraging balance and coordination. Additionally, the warm water environment can help relax the muscles, alleviating tension and helping to promote further recovery.
Traditional therapy methods on land may even aggravate symptoms of some physical conditions. At the same time, water therapy can create a warm and supportive environment for patients to practice therapy exercises. This is without the fear of further aggravation and injury while still creating natural resistance to promote strengthening and a faster recovery.
What is Aquatic Therapy Good For?
Aquatic therapy is an excellent resource for patients in all stages of life and physical ability and a tremendous tool for improving balance, mobility, and strength for patients with any of a variety of conditions, from back pain to osteoporosis.
Conditions commonly treated with aquatic physical therapy include:
- Chronic neck pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Muscle spasms
- Back pain
- Multiple sclerosis
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Joint replacement
- Post-operative recovery
What to Expect at an Aquatic Therapy Session?
As with any other PT session, an initial visit will include a general consultation to determine the best plan of care for the patient’s recovery. The specific exercises used will depend on the patient's condition and needs. These may include underwater walking, weighted activities in the water, stability exercises and stretching with flotation devices, resistance training, and stair-training.
A typical session runs 30-60 minutes, depending on the patient’s needs. Water temperatures in the mid-90s help patients feel comfortable and relaxed while exercising. Additionally, patients don’t need to be able to swim to participate in aquatic physical therapy.
Knowing what to wear to your aquatic physical therapy session can help you feel more prepared. Make sure to wear a swimsuit or clothes you are comfortable wearing in a pool. You will also want to bring a towel, shoes to walk around the pool area, and a water bottle to stay hydrated. Any open wounds should be covered with waterproof dressings.
Not all conditions are suitable for water therapy, so consult your physician or physical therapist before treatment.
Want to Learn More about Aquatic Therapy in WNY?
At Advanced Care Physical Therapy, we strive to provide our patients with the highest level of clinical care. We specialize in a plethora of treatment methods, from the Schroth Method for scoliosis to strength and conditioning for athletic performance and recovery and from soft-tissue mobilization to aquatic therapy.
We have eight locations throughout Western New York, with an aquatic therapy center in our Niagara Falls facility. If you’d like to learn more about how aquatic physical therapy can help you in your recovery, contact us today to request an appointment or visit our website for more information.