All about Aquatic Therapy...how it can benefit YOU
Aquatic Therapy is a type of physical therapy that involves performing specific exercises in the water. Aquatic therapy is especially beneficial for people who have difficulty with weight bearing activities due to arthritis, recent joint injuries, hip or knee surgery, back injuries or obesity. Exercising in the water provides several benefits that exercise on land cannot. The buoyancy of the water provides an unloading of the weight bearing joints of the spine, knee and hips. This is helpful for those who can’t tolerate exercising on land due to joint pain. Water also provides assistance and resistance while exercising so that one can progress through various levels of activity while increasing functional strength and capacity. Aquatic therapy offers the added benefit of being able to utilize the multi-planar environment, working with or against resistance as well as the absence of eccentric muscle loading thus reducing post-exercise muscle soreness. Aquatic therapy also can help by promoting healing to the site of injury and increasing circulation. Vasodilation in a warm water environment with the added compressive properties improve blood flow to the site resulting in increased oxygen delivery and healing of damaged tissue.
Benefits of Aquatic Therapy:
· Increased aerobic capacity, endurance and sense of well-being
Aerobic exercise in water promotes physical conditioning, improved cardiopulmonary functions and better circulation. This conditioned state creates positive health benefits such as decreased joint swelling, improved lung capacity and oxygenation and an overall improvement in well-being and energy reserves.
· Diminished loss of bone density
Exercise in the water produce less spinal and lower extremity loading than the identical exercise performed on land. This reduction in impact stress may permit individuals to exercise in water who cannot do so on land, thus allowing the person to increase bone density through exercise
· Increased strength, power and endurance; improved joint integrity and mobility
Due to the buoyancy and viscosity of the water, exercise in such a unique environment promotes more movement freedom and resistance than the identical gravity-affected exercise performed on land. This promotes improved ROM, reduced stiffness, improved quality of movement and increased functional strength and mobility while diminishing the negative consequences of lack of mobility.
· Decreased risk of safety compromise
Participants may be challenged beyond limits of stability in the water without the fear of consequences of falling which are often present with land based activities. The environment leads to improvement in balance reactions, which are translated to land-bases activities.
· Improved ability to progress weight-bearing status while honoring weight restrictions
The buoyancy of the water reduces weight-bearing on the joints of the lower body while permitting the exercise, task or activity to be performed in a functional loaded position. Participants are able to increase their energy expenditure and see an improvement in overall health specifically activities of daily living, functional tasks and increased levels of confidence due to better motor skills.
· Improved performance and independence in functional tasks; improved motor learning and quality/quantity of movement
Movement of a body part through water results in greater somatosensory input to receptors than movement of that body part through air. This greater input contributes to better kinesthetic awareness and thus affects functional activities and positions such as posture, balance, transfers and gait
· Decreased joint and soft tissue swelling, inflammation and/or restriction
Immersion in water results in the shift of fluids (blood, lymph, third space fluids) from the body part immersed in the greatest depth (typically the legs) to the body part at the water’s surface (typically the trunk). This affects the body’s circulatory, metabolic and cardiopulmonary systems.
· Decreased pain, muscle spasm, abnormal tone, arousal
Exercise and/or relaxation in a warm water environment (88 to 92’) provides a thermal effect which can alter tone, arousal, muscle spasm and pain. Such therapy is very beneficial for individuals with Fibromyalgia and related conditions.