Petersen Physical Therapy

Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic therapy continues to be an effective treatment option for many patients. Over the years, we have seen its many benefits. One of the first questions we usually get asked is …
What Is Aquatic Therapy?

We’re glad you asked!

Aquatic therapy is generally considered a compliment or alternative to traditional forms of land-based physical therapy. The exercises and movements we will ask of you will be similar to those of a typical physical therapy routine, and they will have a similar goal. The difference is that being in a pool alleviates the pressure of typical land-based exercises and provides some consistent resistance to the movements.

So aquatic therapy is basically a form of physical therapy that is performed in a pool. We utilize a pool with uniform 4 foot depth that is 40 by 75 feet. We also constantly supervise patients as they perform their exercises to make sure that everyone is kept safe and performs the exercises to their maximum benefit.

Why Would I Do Aquatic Therapy?

Research has documented its benefit for a wide variety of injuries and diagnoses. It has been scientifically proven to be effective with arthritic conditions of many joints. We most commonly see patients with knee and hip arthritis. It also has proven to be an effective therapy medium for many types of back conditions, including pre- and post- operative conditions.

The most common reason we recommend patients pursue aquatic therapy is when they have limitations in their tolerance to land based exercise. They are generally frustrated by their inability to move freely. It is satisfying to see patients respond well to a water based exercise program that would never be feasible on the land. For those who can’t move very well on the land it is liberating to be able to move in the water without straining their back or knee or other part of their body. They are regularly disappointed to have to leave the water environment because they enjoy the freedom of movement that the water offers. They also don’t want to leave the water because experiencing a return to the stress of normal gravity on land upon their bodies is not welcome.

A lesser known benefit of aquatic therapy is the advantage of being immersed in water to increase the hydrostatic pressure on the submerged body. The pressure of the water creates uniform pressure that can control swelling and inflammation, primarily in the lower extremities. For those with irritable tissues and joints, controlling the swelling with exercise can provide an added benefit. This pressure helps to increase circulation with gentle pressure on vessels to promote greater blood flow.

For those with limited exercise tolerance the uniform resistance of the water against movement is unique. Pressure by the water against a moving arm or leg does not change. The predictability of the water will allow you to pick the speed of movement that is most appropriate. The harder you push against the water, the harder the water pushes back. The speed of movement dictates the intensity of the resistance. Movement in a fluid medium also creates a gentle form of massage.

The best part of aquatic therapy is that it is fun! Most of us enjoy being in the water and moving around! It feels less like exercise and more like fun. Though it is not appropriate for all people, it is a good option for more people that we may realize. The best way to assess the level of appropriateness for you is to seek a physical therapy evaluation.

Call our Gilbert location to find out if aquatic therapy is a good option for you.