Research Shows Effects of Underwater Treadmill Training on Chronic Stroke Patients
The effects of aquatic therapy on stroke patients is significant because it has been found that they typically experience impaired walking ability because of decreased balance. This decrease in balance can lead to falls, which decreases mobility, increases fear of falling and affects their ability to return to activities of daily living. Finding ways to improve gait and balance are critical to improving quality of life after a stroke.
An international study on the effects of underwater treadmill gait training with water-jet resistance on balance and gait ability in patients with chronic stroke showed that using resistance jets can have a beneficial effect compared to underwater treadmill gait training with ankle weights. Specifically, the study measured the effects on static balance, dynamic balance, gait velocity, cadence, step length, stride length and swing phase.
Twenty-two inpatient and outpatients who had impairments due to stroke were split randomly into two groups: one that performed underwater treadmill gait training with water-jet resistance, and one that performed underwater treadmill gait training with ankle weights. Both groups performed a 30-min traditional land-based physical therapy session followed by the underwater treadmill gait training.
Both groups showed progress, but the improvements in both static and dynamic balance were greater in the underwater treadmill and water-jet resistance group. Additionally, while both groups showed improvements in all of the following areas, the underwater treadmill and water-jet resistance group showed greater improvements in:
- Gait velocity
- Step length
- Stride length
- Swing phase
Our results demonstrated that underwater treadmill gait training with water-jet resistance is effective in improving static and dynamic balance as well as gait abilities in chronic stroke patients. Thus, training using underwater treadmill gait training with water-jet resistance may be useful in facilitating active rehabilitation in chronic stroke patients.
Not only is water a naturally safe space for physical therapy for those recovering from stroke due to the natural properties of water, using an underwater treadmill with jet resistance can have a great impact on recovery.