Why Add Water? The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic physical therapy is the use of water in physical therapy for treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, health, wellness and fitness. There are many benefits of aquatic therapy including improved pain, joint motion, strength, circulation swelling, muscle relaxation, balance and functional abilities. The difference the water makes is based on the physical properties of the water like buoyancy, viscosity, hydrostatic pressure and temperature.

The buoyancy of the water offsets the effects of gravity on the joints by reducing body weight, thus reducing pain and pressure on the joints. Walking and weight bearing exercises that cause pain on land can usually be performed in water pain free. Also less muscle activation is required to support the body in the water than on land due to buoyancy.

The viscosity, or thickness, of the water produces resistance in every direction as water surrounds the body. This makes being in the water the best place to work on balance. A fall occurs more slowly in the water due to water resistance, giving more time to react to and overcome loss of balance. People feel more supported in water and are likely to challenge their balance more as they are less fearful of falling when they are supported by water. Also less support is required to walk in water. For example, one who uses a cane to walk on land may be able to walk without it in the water.

Hydrostatic pressure is exerted from the water onto the body causing compression of soft tissues and helping to decrease pain and swelling. Warm water allows for muscle relaxation and decreases in sensitivity to pain.

After aquatic physical therapy, many clients are at a lower fall risk and have improved walking speeds and functional abilities. The water provides a warm, relaxing environment where exercise can be enjoyed and performed pain free.

Aquatic therapy is available at Passavant Community in Zelienople with our Outpatient Physical Therapy Department. Programs are designed to allow you to progress towards wellness and continued use of the pool after graduation from physical therapy. Call (724) 452-3492 for more information or to make an appointment.