Protecting an Achilles Repair with Water Therapy
Protecting an Achilles repair post-surgery early on in the rehabilitation process is extremely important. Using water therapy, exercises can begin earlier with reduced stress on the repair.
At Boston Sports Medicine, physical therapist Meaghan Harwood discusses the importance of using aquatic therapy for her patient Dan after his Achilles repair. Dan has a goal of getting back to skiing, but the pain in his Achilles had him using a wheelchair when large amounts of walking were needed. A few weeks of aquatic therapy has greatly improved his tolerance for walking on land.
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A typical recovery from an Achilles repair is usually a pretty long process. By using aquatic therapy, Meaghan is able to get patients to start rehab sooner than normal. Therapy for Dan began about a month after surgery. Only a short time later, his gait has improved tremendously, as well as his range of motion and strength training. Using the underwater treadmill is a huge asset for injuries like this because typically patients that have undergone an Achilles repair experience a lot of pain and discomfort when getting back to walking. The underwater treadmill relieves some of the pain by removing up to 90% of a patient’s bodyweight, allowing for less weight on the repair and an opportunity to improve gait and increase strength. Additionally, range of motion exercises can be performed in the water with decreased stress on the repair. It is ideal for beginning strengthening without compromising the repair, particularly for the calf muscle where excessive strengthening can add too much stress on the tendon too early.
Dan appreciates the water therapy too! His pain level is almost zero in the pool, as opposed to the pain he is still experiencing on land and he hopes to be back to skiing by the winter.
Watch the full Achilles case study below: