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Diving into Aquatic Shoulder Rehabilitation

Diving into Aquatic Shoulder Rehabilitation

Unfortunately, shoulder injuries are a frequent happening with people of all ages. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “more than 7 million people experience shoulder problems.” These shoulder injuries may include: arthritis, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff issues and upper-arm sprains.

Numerous physical therapists recommend aquatic therapy as a viable option for shoulder rehabilitation because it gets their patients moving sooner than regular land physical therapy.

Considerations Before Using Water Therapy

According to Veronica Paquette, PT, ATRIC, PRC, prior to utilizing water therapy with an injured individual consider the following:

  1. The need to assess the patients’ comfort level with the aquatic medium
  2. The necessity for the aquatic therapist and patient to be physically stable at all times

Main Exercises For Aquatic Shoulder Rehab

After evaluating those two main concerns, the next step is to develop the proper therapy exercises for the patient. The two main exercises that Paquette discuss are:

Standing Exercises

  • Standing exercises, a great place to start, allows the patients to build muscle tone and repair injured tissue.
  • Suggested Exercises: Push/pull down, flexion/extension, horizontal abduction/adduction, diagonals, figure eights and circles.
  • The adjustable resistance jets are helpful for strengthening and creating resistance with the standing exercises.

Supine and Prone Exercises

  • In the supine position, patients can perform exercises such a “snow angels” to emphasize the shoulder and scapula muscle groups.
  • Many of the same exercises can be used or slightly modified when in the prone position, however generating different results and using different muscle groups

It is important that throughout this therapy process, the physical therapist is observing their patients and ensuring they are properly executing the exercises. Aquatic therapy enables patients to do more than they would do out of the water because water eliminates 20% to 100% of a person’s body weight.  Not to mention, aquatic therapy is very safe, removing the risk of further injury.

Patients who enjoy their aquatic therapy sessions are more likely to refer their physical therapists and fitness centers to others, generating more awareness and more clients! It’s a win, win!


One comment on “Diving into Aquatic Shoulder Rehabilitation”

  1. Your notes on important assessments prior to applying water therapy are well noted… Some time ago, I took on a client with a torn rotator cuff. She had been working with another trainer, who simply plopped her into a local YMCA pool and began directing a workout regimen…… without realizing she required special concern due to ankle surgery the previous year.

    Long story short, I was tasked not only with helping her recover shoulder strength and movement – but also with repairing damages caused by poorly executed water therapy training, to her ankle. With proper technique and consideration, we were able to restore her to nearly 90% of her original movement. But it was a lot harder on her than it needed to be.

    Always look for an EXPERIENCED trainer when getting any kind of physical therapy. Otherwise you’re just begging to get hurt.

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