Small Town Aquatic Cancer Rehabilitation Success

Small Town Aquatic Cancer Rehabilitation Success

Elizabeth McDonald, Director of Therapy Services and Cardiac Rehab at Gove County Medical Center located in the small town of Quinter, Kansas, talks about cancer rehabilitation for her patients, in a recent webinar. Elizabeth has served as Physical Therapy Director for over 20 years and has been the Cardiac Rehab Program Director since 2005. The 800-person small town critical access hospital is a long-term care facility and out-patient setting, which provides aquatic therapy to a variety of patients: both young and old. Elizabeth is very passionate about each of her patients and appreciates using water to benefit the quality of life of others. Gove County Medical Center is equipped with a HydroWorx 750 Series and sees success using it with their cancer patients.

Recently, a few of Elizabeth’s staff members received their cancer certification from Rocky Cancer Mountain Center in Colorado. It has been a little over a year and Elizabeth has seen great outcomes from her employees receiving the certification. She shared that recently she noticed a patient who has only able to walk 30-seconds on a land-based treadmill and asked herself, “Why not try aquatic therapy?” Once, the patient was in the water, she was able to walk 10 – 15 minutes on the underwater treadmill. After she got the patients in the water, Elizabeth noticed that positive changes were happening more quickly than on land.

Learn more by watching the webinar on-demand.

During the recent webinar, “Aquatic Applications for Cancer Rehabilitation,” Elizabeth shares with us the 4 phases of cancer rehabilitation, advantages of aquatic therapy vs. land-based therapy, and aquatic exercise possibilities for patients. The four phases for cancer patients that Elizabeth follows in her center are:

Phase #1: Patients currently undergoing treatment. The goal is to keep patients from declining and keeping the intensity to 30 – 45%. There is no reason to push patients in this phase.

Phase #2: Patients who just finished treatment or had surgery and/or hormonal treatment with no chemotherapy or radiation. The goal is to build a basis that focuses on core, pelvic floor and shoulders while increasing the intensity to 40 – 60%.

Phase #3: The patient graduates from Phase 2 working towards functional health. The goal is to improve cardiovascular fitness, pulmonary function, muscular strength and endurance balance working up to 60 – 85% intensity while continuing to improve their quality of daily living.

Phase #4: Graduated from Phase 3 and are now on a maintenance program on their own. The goal is for the patient to keep moving forward with positive progress and moderate to high intensity of 65 – 95%. This stage focuses on a lifetime maintenance program for the patient.

Elizabeth talks about individualizing each patient’s exercise program based on which phase the patient is in. Some benefits of aquatic exercise that she shares provides further detail on in her webinar are:

  • Treadmill exercise
  • Strengthening
  • Stretching
  • Relaxation
  • Resistance
  • Buoyancy

Watch this FREE on-demand webinar to learn about the exercises that Elizabeth uses for her patients and the perks of using aquatic therapy vs. land-based therapy.

View This Webinar


2 comments on “Small Town Aquatic Cancer Rehabilitation Success”

  1. Hello. I am a student in a DPT program and I am interested in learning more about aquatic therapy for patients with cancer. I was wondering if you had any peer reviewed research articles you could share with me on the topic. I have found a couple but would like to read more. Thank you!

    1. All published research studies can be found here: We do not have any specific to cancer on our website, but Elizabeth mentioned some in her webinar:

      Callanen A. Dressendorfer R. Cancer-Related Fatigue and Exercise. EBSCO Publishing. 2016 Aug 05. Clinical Review

      Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute. University of Northern Colorado. Cancer Exercise Specialist Workshop


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