Using Aquatic Therapy as a Transitional Tool

Using Aquatic Therapy as a Transitional Tool

After a fall, surgery, or other injury, transitioning back to regular day-to-day activities can be extremely difficult, especially for seniors. Muscle atrophy quickly sets in from lack of physical activity caused by difficulty (or inability) to move on land.

Aquatic therapy can be the key to this challenging transition. Gait training in a low impact environment, such as water, allows for earlier replication of proper ambulatory biomechanics. Cardiovascular stamina, muscle toning and flexibility are augmented by the resistance that water provides.

In an article posted in April 2017, Erin Bussin of Fortius Strength & Conditioning in Burnaby, BC, breaks down six ways hydrotherapy can get a person back on their feet.

  1. Takes the weight off. Performing movements is easier in the water and allows patients to do things they are not able to do on land. At chest-high water levels, a person bears only about 20% of his/her body weight.
  2. Helps strengthen and mobilize the injured area. The characteristics of water decrease the compressive weight-bearing stresses and pressures that joints experience on land. This allows for more comfortable functional exercise in the water.
  3. Cameras monitor running gait. With the help of underwater cameras, patients and physical therapists can actually see in real-time how their body may be compensating for an injury. Gait corrections can be made immediately.
  4. Relieves pain. The warmth of the water relaxes joints and muscles promoting early range of motion and increased flexibility without the pain felt on land. Studies show improved balance, function, mobility and reduced joint pain after just 6 weeks in the water.
  5. Enhances state of mind. Hydrotherapy gets patients out of the house and into a positive state-of-mind as they move again, pain-free.

In the video below, Colin Liston, PTA at Aqua Worx, in Logan, Utah, explains why the HydroWorx pool has been meaningful to him in helping his patients transition back to land therapy. Colin says that many times patients come to him with a feeling of hopelessness because of their physical state. Through aquatic therapy, patients are able to transition back to land therapy and get back to doing the things they love in their everyday lives.

Having a way to move and safely begin rehabilitation can do amazing things for the body and spirit. Early gains may become an immediate reality for those willing to explore the healing powers of water.

To learn more about the ways aquatic therapy impacts rehab, download our tip sheet>>

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2 comments on “Using Aquatic Therapy as a Transitional Tool”

  1. This article talks about a study that was conducted to see the effects on adults with mild to moderate intellectual disability who go through an aquatic based exercise regimen for eight weeks at St. Joseph’s Center in Pennsylvania. Around two thirds of the population with Intellectual disability were found to score lower on physical fitness levels than people twenty to thirty years older than them without intellectual disabilities. Having low physical fitness levels can lead to premature health-related problems or issues. There has been strong evidence to support the fact that routine physical activity can improve the quality of life of an individual with ID. The participants took a series of tests prior to the aquatic therapy to give an initial physical fitness level. These tests included the six-minute walk, the 10-meter timed walk, the timed up and go, a 30 second chair stand, as well as a static plank test. They then went through the eight-week aquatic program which was led by a licensed physical therapist twice a week. Finally, to see if the program worked as intended they had the participants retake the initial tests to see where they had ended up. “When comparing participants’ measures of physical performance prior to and following the 8-week aquatic exercise program, improvements were seen in all measures, but the change in scores for the 6-min walk test, 30-sec chair stand test, and the static plank test achieved statistical significance” (Hakim, Kane, Ross, and Runco, 2017). This is proving that even just eight weeks of aquatic therapy can start to improve your physical fitness level. The aquatic environment provided a safe setting for these participants to improve their physical skills, as well as work on their social interaction skills with others like the therapists or other patients in the pool (Hakim and Kane and Runco, 2017).
    Aquatic physical therapy has been something that has caught my interest sense I was young. I used to sit in with my mom when I was a kid as she taught these classes. I could see the joy it would bring to the patients because not only were they bettering themselves, but they were having fun while doing it. Another reason this is appealing to me is because one day I would like to own my own physical therapy business. If I were fortunate enough to build the building from scratch, this may be something I could look into having. This could also help my business grow and expand to some clients who I may not otherwise have. This would also be good to have, because if over the years aquatic training keeps proving to help in the long run, then I would be able to provide better therapy to the community.
    This article relates to current health-care because healthcare professionals are always looking for new and improved ways to create a higher quality of life, especially to those who may have some form of disabilities. There has been a recent surge to not only try to treat some of these disabilities, but also to make these people who have to live with them as happy, and live as normal a life as possible. Even though the act of aquatic therapy may not be new, we are doing more and more research on it, and it seems to have more positive effects than have been understood in the past. Healthcare professionals are now able to use this form of therapy in a larger variety of situations, for different injuries, and to help treat/maintain different disabilities.
    Evidence based practice is commonly defined as integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research (What is Evidence Based Practice, 2017). Aquatic therapy could be related to this because there is evidence that shows from previous studies that aquatic therapy can help lead to a higher physical fitness level, which also is shown to lead to a higher quality of life for people with Intellectual Disabilities. It would then be me taking this researched evidence, and me applying it into my facility to help my clients live the life they deserve to live.
    Aquatic physical therapy seems to be a very useful form of therapy for a lot of different types of patients. According to it can even be better than on land therapy in some cases. The water provides a quicker improvement of muscle strength due to the water always resisting your movements, this type of constant resistance is very hard to replicate on land. It also says that if there are small waves this will help improve core strength and stability by constantly keeping yourself up, even if you are in a sitting position (Aquatic Therapy). Some of the exercises that are done in the water may even feel easier on your body while actually working it more.
    Aquatic physical therapy is most likely going to keep increasing in popularity for therapists to choose over land-based therapy. With all the positive results that come back from each experiment, it is inevitable that more people will start to see this and want to be a part of it. Having a 94% attendance rate throughout the eight-week training cycle shows that the participants also enjoyed the therapy and it made them want to keep coming back each day. The biggest reason aqua-therapy will most like start to increase in the future is because it helps these people in more than one way. It has been proven many of times to decrease treatment time when comparing to regular therapy. Secondly, it may be even easier to handle physically because you are in water, then if you were not. This would help the people who are not easily motivated to go to therapy to go. And finally, the people who are in need of this type of therapy may not have the best social skills. This would be a great time for them to interact with the therapists, as well as other patients who may be in the pool and are going through the same situation as themselves.

    1. Thanks for the great perspective on aquatic therapy! With your clear desire to help people become the best they can be, we hope you are able to fulfill your dreams of opening a PT business someday.

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