Heightening Patients’ Proprioceptive Abilities With Water Therapy
The following blog post has been summarized from the recent article, “Aquatic Awakening” by Greg King, FNP, and Cheryl Ogran, MSPT, CLT-LANA, on Physical Therapy Products.
Proprioception is the self-awareness we have when moving through space. After surgery or due to certain medical conditions, proprioception can be greatly diminished. Unfortunately, land-based physical therapy prescribed to help with proprioceptive abilities may be too challenging for some patients. That’s when water therapy can be utilized for earlier intervention and progression toward improved activities of daily living and, for some patients, sports-related activities.
In a recent article, “Aquatic Awakening,” Mercy Fort Scott’s Greg King and Cheryl Ogran shared their experiences helping individuals with motion mechanics and proprioception using an underwater treadmill. King and Ogran explore several key advantages to getting patients in the water quickly, including the promotion of soft tissue growth and joint mobility. They note that water, unlike land, is a forgiving environment where falls do not lead to further complications. Plus, the water can provide a more challenging workout than more people realize.
In the article, proprioceptive-promoting protocols are described, including standing in one position against the force of the water and engaging in repetitive exercises, as well as concentric and eccentric workouts to shorten and elongate muscles. Other exercises include movements like walking, twisting, jumping and running to heighten body-space awareness, all while watching one’s motions on a video screen. Video cameras attached to the Mercy Fort Scott HydroWorx 300 unit give real-time feedback to patients, helping them rewire their brains to understand how a particular movement should look and feel.
What is the value for patients with proprioception problems who enter into aquatic therapy in tandem with or prior to land-based therapy? In the case of King and Ogran, they have seen people improve gait, strength and joint function, ultimately correcting issues that might otherwise lead to overuse injuries from improper body mechanics.
Athletes may especially appreciate being able to re-develop spatial relationships and focus on overcoming proprioception issues after being injured or having surgery. In fact, athletes respond well to aquatic therapy because it allows them to move relatively unhindered by gravity. They can still engage in a vigorous upper and lower body workout that awakens the nerves and improves proprioception, but does not lead to unnecessary stress or strain. For King and Ogran, one of the biggest advantages may be the psychological feeling of wellness that athletes and other patients get when they push past boundaries and make strides thanks to effective water therapy sessions.
To learn more about how they use aquatic therapy to help with proprioception in the early stages of recovery, read the full article, please click here.