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Dive In: 11 Things to Know About Aquatic Therapy

One of the biggest splashes in physical therapy in recent years is the evolution of aquatic therapy, which helps patients with muscle strength, balance, posture, endurance, agility, coordination, function, body mechanics and a number of other needs. Because the water’s properties allow the musculoskeletal system to use muscle memory and heal without impact or bearing weight, the body can heal faster.

If you’re thinking about peeking underwater into the world of aquatic therapy, here are eleven things to know:

·  Aquatic therapy allows a patient to begin weight-bearing sooner because of the buoyancy of the water, which will help them transition to weight-bearing on land.

·  Going into the water displaces the bodyweight that a patient would be putting on their joints outside of the pool because it reduces the stress of and pressure of the bodyweight on muscles, joints, tendons and bones at various depths.

·  This type of therapy isn’t a one-stop-shop; it’s extremely customizable to individual patient needs.

·  Typically, the patient and therapist are both in the pool working on rehabilitation together.

·  Your aquatic therapist’s goal is to have patients become comfortable in the aquatic setting in order to increase flexibility and strength. Some patients are apprehensive due to their inability to swim, and that’s okay. You can still do aquatic therapy as a form of rehabilitation. 

·  Myofascial release with a massager jet in the pool can be used to treat IT Band syndrome, piriformis syndrome, plantar fasciitis issues, and more.

·  Aquatic therapy can be effective in treating shoulders and scapula issues because the strong force of the jet helps to reduce restrictions and stress on the muscles and joints.

·     Other conditions that can be treated through aquatic therapy include low back pain, shoulder adhesive capsulitis, hip and knee osteoarthritis, foot and ankle sprains and post-operative patient needs.

·     Some aquatic therapy pools including those at OrthoCarolina have treadmills for underwater running.

·     The warm water of the pool helps allow the body’s muscles and core temperature to increase at a faster rate than it would just on land.

·     If a female is submerged in water at the level of C7 (xiphoid process, or the ASIS) she will bear 8%, 28%, or 47% of her weight. If a male is submerged at the same levels, he will bear 8%, 35%, and 54%, of his weight.

Read more about aquatic therapy.

Cheryl Bennett is an aquatic therapist at OrthoCarolina University’s physical therapy office.

This article was originally posted on December 19th, 2015 and updated on March 9, 2020.

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