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 providing pain relief.
Even in the 1700s, Sigmund Hahn, a German doctor, created aquatic therapy, also called hydrotherapy. Sir Sebastian Kneipp further refined aquatic therapy during the 19th century.
Today, aquatic therapy is used by physical therapists and occupational therapists around the world.
Aquatic therapy for pain relief provides patients with an ideal environment to gain strength and improve their flexibility – without their regular aches and pains. As far as exercise goes, pool therapy is a low-impact option for pain relief. It not only allows patients to have fun and remain active, it keeps people from becoming bored or complacent in their routine.
To learn more about aquatic therapy exercises and their benefits, we’ve put this intro guide together.
Here’s what you should know about aquatic therapy.
How Does Aquatic Therapy Work?
Aquatic therapy, or pool exercise, is the performance of therapeutic exercises in a small and shallow warm-water pool.
The warm water creates an ideal therapeutic environment for pain relief by offering the right temperature for healing and recovery. Pool exercises in aqua therapy tubs or other environments relax the muscles and alleviate aches and pains around problematic joints. This type of pain relief also often provides pinched nerve relief, too.
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 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 most important thing to remember is that physical therapy is only one step of recovery.
The type of exercise prescribed depends on your condition or injury.
Aquatic Therapy Benefits
There is an array of injuries and conditions that benefit from aqua aerobics and aquatic therapy. These include:
- Arthritis in the knee, back, or hip
- Bursitis, which involves the ankle, knee, or hip
- Post-joint replacement surgery
- Low back pain
- Chronic pain disorders like fibromyalgia
- Tendonitis, which is commonly found in the hands, elbows, knees, and wrists
- Most orthopedic injuries like fractures, a sprain, or a strain
These conditions all improve through aqua therapy physical therapy and other water exercises.
Luckily, even if you suffer from a different type of injury, you will likely still benefit from this type of therapy. Speak to your doctor or physical therapist to see if this is 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 aquatic therapy.
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 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 Water Exercise
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 is the ability to perform exercises in water that could not be done on land. Both running and treadmill-style aquatic therapy are great examples of activities that patients may not be able to do on land. As their pain relief increases and strength and mobility do too, look for changes.
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. After this, a physical therapist guides you through a series of water exercises. These will target either the arms or the legs.
4. The Burdenko Method for Water Exercise
The Burdenko Method is one of the most common aquatic therapy approaches. The focus is on improving strength, balance, coordination, endurance, and flexibility. Take a gradual approach. Your end goal should be performing each exercise on land safely. You’ll often see this method used for common injuries. This includes things like fractures, sprains, and strains.
Where You Can Find Aqua Therapy Clinics
There are many aqua therapy locations across the United States. This is a form of self-care and pain relief that works for nearly everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new mom or a recovering athlete. Water exercises are modified to meet patient needs, no matter what they might be.
Not sure where to find pool exercise opportunities near you? The BetterPT clinic location tool website and BetterPT app were 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.