What is aquatic physical therapy?
Aquatic physical therapy is a quantum leap forward in rehabilitation. It is administered in a specially designed, technologically advanced pool. Aquatic physical therapy complements traditional, land-based physical therapy programs. Treatment is provided by licensed physical therapists and physical therapy assistants who are trained in aquatic therapy.
Often after an injury or surgery, a patient‘s sensitivity to pain is increased while weight bearing is limited, which restricts his or her activities on land. In water the effects of gravity are reduced and functional activity and motion can occur. The properties of water let a patient exercise in a relative “low or no impact” environment that provides more comfortable movement and enhanced range of motion. Water supports the body, reduces joint stress, and provides resistance and assistance to movement in a truly unique manner. Patients can rapidly improve mobility, strength, and function during the healing process.
Why does Aquatic Physical Therapy Work?
Water possesses unique properties such as buoyancy, viscosity, and hydrostatic pressure. These properties are used to improve the range of motion, strength, balance, and endurance for people who have sustained physical illness and injuries.
- Buoyancy: It is an upward acting force exerted by water that opposes an object’s weight. This upward force allows a patient to have less apparent weight than on land. This benefits patients who have weight bearing difficulties such as ankle, knee or hip injuries, or surgery, arthritis, or back pain. The buoyant force of water decreases the effective weight of a patient in proportion to the degree of immersion. When the water is shoulder deep, a person will only weigh ten percent of his or her normal body weight. The buoyancy effect of water will allow patient to move in ways that may not have been possible on land.
- Viscosity: This refers to the internal friction specific to fluid. This friction provides resistance with water exercise. The faster the movement through the water the more resistance is given. Water resistance is often used during strengthening exercise. Since no weights or machines are involved, this form of resistance is uniquely safe and effective.
- Hydrostatic Pressure: Water exerts pressure on an object that is immersed in the water. Pressure is greatest at deeper depths. This pressure benefits patients who may have swelling in the lower extremities, legs and ankles. It also reduces the perception of pain which allows the patients to move willingly and correctly.
Patients Suited for Aquatic Physical Therapy
People referred for aquatic physical therapy usually have difficulty exercising on land. The following conditions are ideal for treatment in the aquatic environment:
- Neck, shoulder, low back, knee or ankle, injuries
- Pre- and post-surgical rehab
- Chronic pain
- Lumbar strain
- Sports- and work-related injuries requiring rapid rehabilitation
- Conditions with weight bearing restrictions
Benefits of Aquatic Physical Therapy
- Accelerated rehabilitation
- Protection for joints during exercise
- Reduced stress
- Decreased swelling
- Trunk stabilization
- Improved gait or postural deviations
- Increased circulation
- Increased strength and endurance
- Increased range of motion and flexibility
- Increased balance and coordination
- Increased muscle tone
- Improved body mechanics with work and daily activities to avoid re-injury
Aquatic Physical Therapy Pool at Advanced Physical Therapy & Rehab
The pool’s high performance features represent the cooperative efforts of clinicians, engineers and visionaries. The revolutionary piece of therapeutic equipment features an integrated hydraulic underwater treadmill, massage jets, and an underwater monitoring system. With the use of an underwater camera, both the patient and therapist can observe and correct movement patterns.
Our aquatic therapy pool features:
- An integrated variable speed treadmill that smoothly increases speed from 0 to 6 mph.
- Directional massage jets for soft tissue massage
- Grab bars to support and enhance exercise comfort and security
- Underwater camera and viewing monitor aid the patient and therapist in the course of rehabilitation
- Hand-held treadmill speed remote control
- Underwater bench for sitting exercises comfort
- Pool dimensions: 11’ X 7’. Two different water depths: 47” & 51”. The pool is adequately sized to allow patients room to move.
- Fully automated water temperature that is easily adjusted for treating a wide spectrum of conditions. The temperature of the pool is maintained at 94 degrees, which is conductive to relaxation and optimal muscle movement.
- Easy access stairs (not ladder) into/out of pool
- Pool accessibility lift for patients unable to use stairs
- Convenient walk in shower and private dressing rooms
How can you take the plunge into aquatic physical therapy?
A physician’s referral is required to participate in aquatic physical therapy. Each aquatic therapy session is individually designed to meet the patient’s needs and utilizes different equipment, depending upon the nature of the condition. A pool session may last from 15 to 45 minutes. Patients do not have to know how to swim to participate in aquatic physical therapy.
Patients work with their therapist and are never left unattended while in the pool. Treatment may include a warm up, which may be followed by balance and stabilization exercises, strengthening, gait training, and endurance exercises. In-pool treatment may include the use of an underwater treadmill, in-pool steps, weights, a Thera-band, paddles, noodles, a balance and stabilization board, hydrotone boots, and hydrotone bells.
We want your experience with us to be a positive one. You may be uncertain about what to expect. Don’t worry. We want to provide you the care you need so you can reach your individual health goals.
During your first visit, our provider will complete an initial evaluation and perform a selection of diagnostic tests to review your strength, flexibility, movement, stiffness, balance, physical posture, etc. If you have any questions regarding your problem, please do not hesitate to ask. Our providers will answer any questions you may have and will make sure you are completely comfortable with your treatment.