Use Aquatic Therapy to Manage Chronic Pain
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, chronic pain affects 100 million American adults, more than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. An even more staggering statistic states that 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. Many of these individuals wake up each day with persistent pain that can often be crippling due to pain signals that continue firing in the nervous system for weeks, months or even years. Many chronic pain conditions affect older adults, however there are numerous cases where similar symptoms affect younger individuals. There may have been an initial incident such as a sprained back or infection or there may be an ongoing cause of pain such as arthritis or cancer. Some individuals even suffer from chronic pain without having any previous injury or evidence of body damage.
A survey was conducted in 2006 by the American Pain Foundation that evaluated the impact that chronic pain had on 303 chronic pain sufferers who sought care from their physician and were currently using a treatment plan. They found the following statistics regarding their quality of life:
- 51% felt they had little or no control over their pain
- 60% said they experience breakthrough pain one or more times daily, severely impacting their quality of life and overall well-being
- 59% reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life
- 77% reported feeling depressed
- 70% said they have trouble concentrating
- 74% said their energy level is impacted by the pain
- 86% reported an inability to sleep well
What are some examples of chronic pain conditions?
- Low Back Pain
- Severe Headaches or Migraines
- Neck Pain
- Cancer Side Effects
- Arthritis or Fibromyalgia
In a recent visit, we discussed with David Main, PT, Director of Rehab and Todd Horton, PTA at the only Idaho-based, not-for-profit health system, St. Luke’s Nampa Medical Center in Nampa, Idaho about the importance of focusing on helping patients cope with pain by using water.
Todd shared his experience with chronic pain patients, “Our most frequent patients are the chronic pain group with maybe really bad back pain and they really can’t tolerate anything on land so we put them in the pool. So, that is the biggest… the geriatric population with chronic pain moving comfortably in the water until they can tolerate land.”
Todd shared his personal success in decreasing his pain level when using warm water therapy. He used the pool to be able to walk, then run repetitively. He has a lot of empathy and compassion for those that he treats because he understands and appreciates the beauty of water and the positive benefits it has for patients. He is an advocate of using water to heal and suggests it for his patients each and every day. David and Todd are both excited to treat more patients with water.