It’s summer, and for many, that means more time and physical activity outside. However, for those suffering from injuries or chronic pain, this type of exertion can be challenging — if not seemingly impossible — but a lack of mobility doesn’t mean they can’t get out and have some fun in the sun. Instead, seeking out physical therapy options like aquatic therapy can help them restore their range of motion and give them the chance to take advantage of the summertime.
Aquatic therapy, as the term suggests, is a form of physical therapy conducted in the water, generally in a clinic pool. Practiced for hundreds of years in various cultures, aquatic therapy offers unique benefits that help push patients further along their path to recovery in different ways than traditional, land-based physical therapy would.
Aquatic therapy can relieve several conditions
Like any other form of physical therapy, the primary focus of aquatic therapy is to help guide the patient through exercises that will rehabilitate them, increasing their range of motion and reducing pain. A therapist works with the patient to design a custom plan of exercises to best suit their needs. This therapy can benefit patients suffering from all sorts of conditions, from back pain to arthritis, or even a recent stroke.
Many think it is highly specialized and only available in limited circumstances, but usually, patients won’t even need a referral or prescription to see a therapist for aquatic therapy. Because of the wide variety of conditions that it can help relieve, it is an ideal solution for any patient looking to improve their mobility and reduce pain.
Aquatic therapy is generally conducted in a heated pool with an elevated temperature, which helps to reduce inflammation and make patients more comfortable during treatment. Patients who are worried about the pain of physical therapy causing safety risks need not worry about falling, given the hydrostatic pressure in the pool that will support them.
How aquatic therapy compares to standard physical therapy
One of the primary benefits of aquatic therapy, compared to more traditional land-based therapy, is the natural buoyancy of water. When one performs exercises in the water, the gravity on their aching muscles and joints is reduced. This creates a soothing and relaxing environment for the patient’s rehabilitation, wherein they will experience less pain than if they were doing the same exercise out of the water.
However, therapists have also noticed that certain elements of the body, such as the muscles which control the respiratory system, are forced to work harder during aquatic therapy. This allows the natural resistance of water to help strengthen the muscles being exerted in exercises. As a result, patients find that not only is aquatic therapy generally more comfortable than land-based therapy, but it also allows them to return to their full — or near-full — range of motion more easily and quickly.
The exercises that patients perform in aquatic therapy are similar to those in standard physical therapy, albeit in a heated pool environment that helps aid in their recovery. Exercises like water walking, jumping jacks, and lunges can help restore their range of motion, and are generally much easier to complete in the water due to its inherent buoyancy.
And like land-based forms of physical therapy, patients can practice the exercises that are part of the plan developed by their physical therapist from their own pool or in the ocean. In the summer heat, it can be both a great way to improve their mobility and get a reprieve from the heat to practice their exercises.
When dealing with forms of therapy that are not based on land, some patients are concerned about the cost, but Medicare and most insurances typically cover aquatic therapy. Insurers recognize aquatic therapy’s enormous benefits for patients, so they often cover it as they would any other form of physical therapy.
If one finds themselves struggling with mobility, it might just offer the path toward rehabilitation they need. Thanks to the unique properties of water, the length and difficulty of the healing process may be significantly reduced by pursuing this therapy as opposed to traditional land-based therapy. Patients rave about the pain relief and increased mobility that aquatic therapy has given them, so if you want to experience the same comfort, call your local physical therapist today.