Four Uses of Aquatic Therapy for Spinal Cord Injuries
The recovery process for a brain or spinal cord injury can be long, complex and extremely difficult. Thankfully, there is a great deal of clinical evidence that shows aquatic therapy is a suitable environment for improving recovery times and patient outcomes for many reasons. An aquatic environment works well for neuromusclar reeducation and strengthening because water’s buoyancy allows patients who have restricted mobility on land to move more freely in the water. The increase in movement against the natural resistance of the water can help improve muscular strength for patients who are suffering from weakness and paralysis.
Additionally, for neurological restoration, increasing core strength and balance is essential for improving daily functions. The viscosity and buoyancy of the water provide support in both the sitting and standing positions during these activities. Wave action can be utilized to further challenge and strengthen both the core and balance mechanisms. As a result of this constant practice and focus on balance, a patient’s fear of falling and injury both on land and in the water is decreased.
A number of clinical studies support the efficacy of aquatic therapy as part of a rehabilitation program following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury. Drs. Jung, Naraski and Vrongistinos of California State University concluded from their findings that “aquatic gait training can benefit individuals with TBI or similar neuromuscular disorders mostly due to its weight support effects from buoyancy.”
There are many benefits of and uses for neurological pool therapy. Here are four specific uses for aquatic therapy specifically for patients with spinal cord or brain injuries:
- Gait Training: Gait training on the underwater treadmill can help patients regain balance, movement and strength when working to reeducate muscles to stand and walk after a brain injury. Because of water’s buoyancy, clinicians are able to increase resistance and move the patient partially out of the water to gradually increase the intensity of the training.
- Activities of Daily Living: In addition to regaining a proper gait to improve activities of daily living, water therapy can be used to practice sit-to-stand, reach, balance exercises and much more.
- Pain Management: Warm water has the ability to increase circulation and range of motion which in turn reduces joint stiffness and pain while exercising in the water.
- Strengthening and Toning: As patients progress through their recovery, resistance can be increased through the use of the underwater resistance jets. This increases muscle strength and prepares patients for further land-based strength training.
Upcoming Free Webinar: The Use of Hydrotherapy for Gait Re-Education
Join us on November 18 from 11:00am to 12:00pm EST for the free webinar, “The Use of Hydrotherapy for Gait Re-Education.” Kerry Glendon, MSc BSc(Hons), mCSP, mMACP, mACPSEM, mAACP, Clinical Specialist, Perform at St. George’s Park, will cover how to identify dysfunction of walking and running gait on land as well as protocols for gait training in the pool. This presentation will detail exercises in the pool and the additional features of the product that may help to improve the altered movement patterns and outcomes gained using aquatics with patients at Perform, St. George’s Park.