What is Aquatic Physical Therapy?

Develop Strength and Better Posture with This Form of Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic Physical Therapy is the evidence-based and skilled practice of physical therapy in an aquatic environment by a physical therapist, or a physical therapist assistant under a physical therapist supervision.

Aquatic Physical Therapy includes but is not limited to treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, health, wellness and fitness of patient/client populations in an aquatic environment with or without the use of assistive, adaptive, orthotic, protective, or supportive devices and equipment.

The unique properties of the aquatic environment enhance interventions for patients/clients across the age span with musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular/pulmonary, and integumentary diseases, disorders, or conditions.

Aquatic Physical Therapy interventions are designed to improve or maintain:

  • Function
  • Aerobic capacity/endurance conditioning
  • Balance, coordination and agility
  • Body mechanics and postural stabilization
  • Flexibility
  • Gait and locomotion
  • Relaxation
  • Muscle strength, power and endurance

Interventions used in Aquatic Physical Therapy include, but are not limited to, therapeutic exercise, functional training, manual therapy, breathing strategies, electrotherapeutic modalities, physical agents and mechanical modalities using the properties of water and techniques unique to the aquatic environment.

 

Activities in warm water:

  • Promote well-being
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Alleviate chronic pain
  • Relieve stress
  • Ease the pain of fibromyalgia

It is believed that the thermal properties of water assist healing. The body’s reaction to hot and cold water causes the nerves at the surface of the skin to carry impulses deep into the body. This reaction is thought to:

  • Lessen pain sensitivity
  • Stimulate the immune system
  • Aid lymphatic drainage
  • Increase blood circulation

It is also likely to leave you both physically and mentally relaxed.

Bodywork in warm water can release energy and balance chi

Thermal aquatic bodywork is an effective way of mobilizing “Chi” (life force) through the “Meridians” (lines of energy in the body). Body temperature water offers a unique and ideal medium for freeing energy. The lightness of the body in water allows the Aquatic practitioner to float you, which has the following effects:

  • Frees the spinal vertebrae
  • Rotates joint articulations
  • Elongates muscles

All of the above benefits are simply not possible with land exercise.

Precautions:

Alcohol and smoking are prohibited during activities.

There are several precautions you need to consider before participating the thermal aquatic bodywork:

  • confusion or disorientation
  • after ingestion of alcoholic beverages
  • under narcotic influence
  • medications
  • respiratory problems
  • hypertension
  • medical condition affecting the spine
  • spinal disc herniation (slipped disc)
  • pregnancy
  • limited strength, endurance, balance, or range of motion

Contraindications:

You can not participate if you suffer from any of the following conditions:

  • incontinence diarrhea, bowel/bladder incontinence
  • vomiting (emesis)
  • seizure (epilepsy) disorders
  • open wounds or non-healing ulcers
  • contagious skin condition
  • herpes
  • high fever
  • HIV
  • hepatitis C
  • infectious diseases
  • ear infection (otitis)
  • urinary infections
  • perforated eardrum
  • eye infection
  • heart disease (abnormal heart function), cardiac failure
  • blood pressure disorder (untreated)
  • pregnancy (after the 17th week, with your physician approval)
  • chemotherapy and radiation therapy (after the 3rd month)
  • allergies or sensitivities to pool chemicals
  • excessive fear of water
  • colostomy bag/catheter use by patient

Benefits of Aquatic Physical Therapy and Exercise

What are the physiological changes in our body during Aquatic exercise:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased rate of respiration
  • Increased depth of respiration
  • Increased peripheral vasodilatation
  • Increased smooth muscle activity (digestion)
  • Decreased activation of striated muscles (skeletal)
  • Decreased spasticity
  • Decreased muscle spasm
  • Decreased reticular activating system (RAS) activity
  • Enhanced immune system response

References: Aquatic Physical Therapy Section

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