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Water Therapy for L4 Stress Fractures

Water Therapy for L4 Stress Fractures

As a physical therapist or athletic trainer, you know how important it is for patients to properly heal their stress fractures before returning to regular activities. Though your patients will heal with a land-based recovery treatment plan, it can often be uncomfortable for them to perform the low-impact exercises they need for rehabilitation. 

To ease your patients’ discomfort and protect them from further injury, using aquatic therapy can greatly reduce the stress fracture recovery time for their back. In fact, studies show that deep water and zero-gravity activities can also maintain a patient’s aerobic fitness while they heal from a stress fracture.

How Aquatic Therapy Improved a Young Woman’s Recovery

We recently visited with the physical therapists and one particular patient over at The Rehab Center Physical Therapy Clinic in New Holland, PA. Lower back pain is extremely common and can be hard to identify its severity without routine doctor visits and/or MRIs.

Hannah Fisher came to The Rehab Center in January after experiencing lower back pain for quite a while. She is an active 15-year-old high school athlete who frequently plays basketball and started noticing the pain back in December of 2012. After undergoing an MRI, the results showed that she had a stress fracture to the L4 vertebrae.

Brent Dudurich, PTA, says the back pain was initially caused by the hyperextension of her back while running and jumping during basketball, and then the continued pressure on her spine during practices and games created the stress fracture. With no time for recovery, the repetitive pounding on a basketball court on top of the initial hyper-extension culminated in a stress fracture.

Hannah started out just doing land-based therapy at The Rehab Center but did not experience any success with just land therapy. Shortly thereafter, Dudurich had Hannah in the HydroWorx 500 Series pool for aquatic therapy sessions. Dudurich tells us that the main focus in the pool was maintaining her cardiovascular levels, increasing core strength and working on balance. 

The key was to work on having proper posture during all of her sport-specific movements to prevent future hyper-extensions and future injury, including:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Squatting 
  • Turning

Advantages of the Aquatic Therapy Sessions

Hannah and Dudurich said the biggest advantage of rehabbing in the pool was the low impact, eliminating any pain felt on land. Hannah was able to do way more in the pool than she was in her land therapy sessions. Dudurich was also able to increase her repetitions in the pool because there was no impact on her back or joints when rehabbing underwater.

Like Hannah, patients with an L4 stress fracture can reap other benefits from hydrotherapy. The buoyancy of water is particularly helpful for relieving musculoskeletal and orthopedic pain by enhancing stretching, movement and body strength. One study noted that water therapy was significantly helpful in improving patients’ range of motion and fatigue, which some individuals may experience with stress fractures.

Though exercise is generally essential for decreasing the risk of fragility fractures, weight-bearing activities that put stress on the joints can prevent patients from participating. Aquatic therapy assists in supporting the patient’s weight, reducing the force of stress on their joints. This can help patients like Hannah with fractures perform exercises that strengthen their muscles with less pain.

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See the Value of Aquatic Therapy for Yourself With HydroWorx

Hannah is one of many who has first-hand experience with the relieving, regenerative and relaxing properties of hydrotherapy. Whether you want to enhance recovery, provide a unique environment for exercise or support rehabilitation, water therapy can help your patients achieve results. At HydroWorx, we want to help accelerate individuals’ rehabilitation and athletic performance outcomes. 

We carry a range of products and equipment to provide your patients and athletes with gravity-free conditioning. Our team is ready to help you find the right solution to meet your goals and needs.

Fill out our contact form to request a free info kit or learn more about our products.

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