Water therapy (also known as aqua therapy or hydrotherapy) has long been a way for individuals to exercise and move their joints with less pain. With water therapy the individual is able to get the body moving within pain-free ranges, focus on the proper body mechanics and begin to build endurance for everyday activities.
Unique Aspects of Water Therapy
Water has many unique properties that allow for you to work hard without over taxing the body. These include: buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure and the viscosity of the water. As well as keeping the temperature of the pool between 89-92 degrees, helps to maximize the water’s therapeutic effects and promote healing.
The upward force of buoyancy counterbalances gravity and supports the body resulting in a reduction of weight bearing through the body. This allows for less stresses through the skeletal system, joints and muscles. The amount of buoyancy is dependent on how much the body is submerged, the more you are submerged the less weight you feel. This property allows for patients to walk, stand, and perform exercises for longer amounts of time verses trying to do the same exercise on land.
Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure the water exerts on the body and is working even if no exercise is being performed. Hydrostatic pressure is beneficial in it can help with the reduction of edema, assists in respiratory strengthening by helping with exhale and resisting inhaling. It is also helpful in cardiovascular training and conditioning, by increasing stroke volume and decreasing the heart rate.
Viscosity characterizes the behavior of the fluid. Water is more viscous than air, and resistance to move through water is greater than the resistance to move through air. This property allows for progressive resistance training in the water. The thickness of the water also helps with sensory awareness and can also help to desensitize a body part. This property alone makes balance training and resistance training so different in the water.
Overall Benefits: Range of Motion, Balance, Coordination, Endurance
Aquatic therapy is beneficial for individuals with all types of ailments, from chronic to acute. Aquatic therapy promotes healing for patients by gently increasing range of motion, improving balance and coordination and improving cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
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Salzman, Andrea (2014) Hands-on Aquatic Therapy Techniques for the Ortho/Neuro Client 4th Edition. Oak Ridge, TN: Aquatic Therapy University.
Sova, Ruth (2000) Aquatics: The Complete Reference Guide for Aquatic Fitness Professionals. Port Washington, WI: DSL, Ltd.