If you are having back pain or other certain types of health issues, your physical therapist may recommend a series of aquatic physical therapy sessions. Water has unique properties that can greatly assist in rehabilitation efforts. Read on to learn more about what comprises aquatic physical therapy, along with just a few of its many benefits.

What is Aquatic Physical Therapy? 

Most people are familiar with swimming pool exercises designed for the elderly. Certain physical therapy exercises can also be performed underwater. Depending upon a person’s overall health and the nature of a patient’s physical therapy requirements, a physical therapist may decide to incorporate aquatic physical therapy as part of a patient’s treatment plan.

Why Try Aquatic Physical Therapy?

Comfortable Yet Challenging

Just as water offers the elderly some key properties that help makes exercising easier, it can also do the same for physical therapy patients. The buoyancy of the water helps cushion joints and makes movement easier. Conversely, much like resistance bands, water also offers a natural resistance to a person’s movements. A person could perform the same movement both in and out of a pool of water, yet find their muscles will become stronger more rapidly when the movement is performed in a pool.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Water exercise can also help a patient rapidly improve their cardiovascular endurance since the resistance of the water makes their heart work harder. Also, both the heat and the pressure from the water can help improve blood circulation by opening up blood vessels. This allows a person’s blood to flow more freely throughout the body. Increased blood flow can help speed healing by delivering healing nutrients to damaged tissues, while also speeding toxin removal from the same damaged tissues. 

Range of Motion

Patients with back pain, arthritis, rotator cuff issues, fibromyalgia, and other types of pain will likely find that performing exercises surrounded by heated water is more comfortable. Heated water helps relax stiff muscles and joints, allowing them to perform better. Patients will likely be able to reach a greater range of motion than if they tried to perform the same exercise out of the water.

Balance Issues 

A physical therapist may also recommend aquatic therapy for patients with weakness and/or balance issues. Patients with these types of conditions can safely perform certain exercises underwater without fear of falling. Not only will they be able to do exercises they may not be able to safely perform out of the water, the natural resistance properties of water challenge the balance system. This latter principle can greatly aid in the retraining of a compromised balance system.

Back Pain

Lastly, aquatic therapy is an excellent choice for many back pain sufferers. Low back pain is often accompanied by weak core muscles. The buoyancy and flotation offered by the water make a pool a great place to strengthen core muscles with the assistance of balance tubes and exercise boards.

aquatic physical therapyIs Aquatic Therapy for Everyone?

As with other medical treatments, aquatic physical therapy is not for everyone. If a person has any of the following conditions, they are likely not a good candidate for aquatic physical therapy.

  • Uncontrolled epilepsy.
  • Cardiac failure.
  • Significant open wounds anywhere on the body.
  • Having a fever over 100 degrees.
  • A respiratory disease of vital capacity less than 1500 cm².
  • Anyone with a severe urinary tract infection or a blood infection.
  • Individuals with bowel incontinence or any infectious disease.
  • Individuals who have a tracheostomy.
  • Women who are menstruating without internal protection.

Aquatic Therapy is Encouraging

Many individuals who would have great difficulty performing regular physical therapy exercises may find great encouragement in aquatic physical therapy. Performing physical exercise in a body of water is also safer for those with weakness and/or balance issues. Many people simply like the idea of exercising in a body of water. The more they enjoy their physical therapy, the more likely they are to work harder, which in turn means a faster recovery period. 

If you think you could benefit from aquatic physical therapy, please contact Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab at 570-208-2787 for more information.