A Formal Introduction to Aquatic Therapy


Aquatic therapy isn’t exactly new. As far back as 2400 BC, groups in Asia and Greece used water as a healing and religious entity. Hippocrates even talked about water and its benefits - especially when it came to healing specific illnesses.

And in the 1700s, Sigmund Hahn, a German doctor, created aquatic therapy, also called hydrotherapy. Sir Sebastian Kneipp further refined aquatherapy during the 19th century.   

Today, aquatic therapy is used by physical therapists and occupational therapists around the world. Aquatic therapy for physical therapy provides patients with an ideal environment to gain strength and improve their flexibility - without their regular aches and pains.

To learn more about aquatic therapy exercises and their benefits, we’ve put this intro guide together. Here’s what you should know about aquatherapy.

How Does Aquatic Therapy Work?

Aquatic therapy, or aquatherapy, is the performance of therapeutic exercises in a small and shallow warm-water pool. The warm water creates an ideal therapeutic environment by offering the right temperature for healing and recovery. Water exercises in aqua therapy tubs or other environments relax the muscles and alleviate aches and pains around problematic joints.

The buoyancy of the water further allows aqua therapy physical therapy patients to perform exercises in the water that they normally wouldn’t be able to do on land. By performing aquatic therapy exercises, patients are able to increase their strength and flexibility with the proper support and stability they need.

Ultimately, a physical or occupational therapist will guide you through a series of aquatic therapy exercises. The type of exercises prescribed depend on your condition or injury.


Aquatic Therapy Benefits

There are an array of injuries and conditions that benefit from aqua aerobics and aquatherapy. These include:

  • Arthritis (particularly involving the knee, back, or hip)
  • Bursitis (particularly involving the ankle, knee, or hip)
  • Post-joint replacement surgery
  • Low back pain
  • Chronic pain disorders (such as fibromyalgia)
  • Tendonitis
  • Most orthopaedic injuries (such as fractures, sprain, or strain)

Any one of these conditions can be improved through aqua therapy physical therapy and other water exercises. However, if you suffer from a different type of injury, you could likely still benefit from aquatic therapy. Speak to your doctor or physical therapist to see if this would be a viable recovery path for you.

What Types of Aquatic Therapy Clinics Exist?

There are a variety of different types of physical therapists specializing in aquatherapy. Some of the most common exercises that these aqua therapy clinics provide include the following:

1. Aqua Aerobics

Aerobic aquatic therapy is frequently performed in a group setting. Many local gyms offer similar water exercise classes to the style of therapy.

Usually, an instructor guides a group of 10-15 people through a low-impact cardio and strengthening workout in - you guessed it - the water. The aqua aerobics class may use props, such as weights. However, the exact layout depends on the instructor and class demographic.

2. Running or Treadmill Aquatherapy

A physical therapist may ask their patient to simply jog or run in the water, or they may have a special set-up with an underwater treadmill. This style of water sports therapy allows patients to regain critical muscle strength for walking and running movements.

The water prevents pressure from being placed on the patient’s joints. In turn, the patient is frequently able to perform a running motion without pain. One of the greatest aquatic therapy benefits previously mentioned is the ability to perform exercises in water that could not be done on land. Running aquatherapy is an excellent example of this as an activity the patient may not be able to do during their specific rehab stage on land.

3. The Bad Ragaz Ring Method Water Exercise

The Bad Ragaz Ring Method is an aquatic therapy exercise that uses a ring-shaped floatation device to help guide the client through the water. The patient lies face-up in the water. The floatation device offers support and stability to their body. Then, the therapist helps them through a series water exercises targeting the patient’s legs or arms.


4. The Burdenko Method for Aquatherapy

The Burdenko Method is one of the most common aquatic therapy approaches. The focus is on improving strength, balance, coordination, endurance, and flexibility. A gradual approach is taken with the end goal being that the patient can perform each exercise on land safely. You’ll often see this method used for common injuries, such as fractures, sprains, and strains.

Where You Can Find Aqua Therapy Clinics

There are many aqua therapy locations across the United States. Not sure where to find one near you? The BetterPT website and BetterPT app was made for helping patients connect with the physical therapists specializing in the treatment they need. Find an aqua therapy physical therapy clinic that fits with your schedule in a location convenient for you and get the care you need.

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