Water therapy, otherwise known as Hydrotherapy or Aquatic Therapy, is the use of water for the rehabilitation and healing of bodies. It is a method used by health professionals, mainly physiotherapists, to rehabilitate people after an injury or to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. Different from Aqua Aerobics or Aquatic Fitness, Water Therapy is administered by a trained health professional and used as a physical medicine rather than pure fitness. It is also different to Adaptive Aquatics that is used to teach people with disabilities how to swim. You can usually find Water Therapy services in hospitals, sports medicine clinics and rehabilitation centres.
What Does Water Therapy Look Like?
There are different ways that water can be used for the healing and positivity for health and wellbeing. Water has been used since ancient times and in different cultures for its healing properties. Ancient Greeks and Romans, and the Japanese were known to use hot springs to improve circulation, promote relaxation and have medicinal effects. Swiss monks were also known to use thermal waters to help treat the sick or disabled persons in their community. Purely being immersed in different temperatures of water can have a positive impact on different systems of the body. For example, sitting in a bath at 32 degrees will lower your heart rate by 15% and sitting in a bath at 14 degrees will increase your metabolism by 350%! A study also found that people with Chronic Heart Failure had significant improvement in their heart function after sitting in a bath at 60 degrees for 15minutes. There are many more studies which show the positive impact that being immersed in water can be for various systems of the body depending on the temperature of the body. So if anything, it’s a good reason to go swimming and have a bath!
While water can be used to help a range of medical conditions, water therapy is conducted by a physiotherapist with specific exercises whilst immersed in water. It os conducted in a heated pool at 33-36 degrees, a few degrees warmer than a normal swimming pool. As the exercises are specific to the patient’s medical condition who are usually limited in some form of movement and strength, the pool does not need to be very large. The therapist may use different pieces of equipment to assist in the therapy session such as an underwater treadmill, stationary bike, flotation devices, barbells, ankle weights, flippers, resistance bands, paddles, kickboards or pool noodles.
What Are The Advantages Of Rehabilitation In Water?
The greatest advantage of performing rehabilitation in water is that exercises that cannot be performed on land are now achievable. One of the biggest reasons for this is that moving in water is significantly less painful than moving on land. Some of the ways that water naturally creates a positive therapeutic environment are:
- It is soothing. Warm water raises body temperature and increases blood flow. This results in a relaxing and soothing environment for aching joints and muscles as the increased blood flow helps to repair injured and damaged tissue, joints and muscles.
- It provides a gentle resistance. Water’s natural resistance can be used for muscle strengthening and increasing rehabilitation progressions. Additionally, the respiratory muscles have to work harder which strengthens lung function.
- It reduces gravitational forces on the body. Buoyancy allows for flotation and reduces the effects of gravity on injured or aching joints and muscles.
- It provides pressure to stabilise the body. Hydrostatic pressure allows people with balance deficits to perform exercises without a fear of falling, decreasing pain and improving cardiovascular return.
- It provides extra forces to assist body movements. Turbulence and waves allow the therapist to gently manipulate the client through the prescribed exercises.
- It stimulates endorphins. Being immersed in water stimulates the release of endorphins which act as a natural pain reliever and reduces stress.
Who Would Benefit From Water Therapy?
A therapist can individually create a Hydrotherapy session for any patient of any age or physical limitation as it is an ideal environment for healing to take place.
- Joint Problems. Anyone who has arthritis, bursitis, are recovering from arthroscopic surgery, have idiopathic joint pain, recovering from joint reconstruction or replacement surgery or have osteoarthritis would benefit from hydrotherapy. The warm temperature is ideal for increase blood flow and the buoyancy enables movement to be easier.
- Neurological Disorders. Balance disorders, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, stroke or traumatic brain injury all benefit from hydrotherapy. The gentle force of the surrounding water provides stability and more movement is achievable than on land.
- Pain. Any pain experienced in the body can be alleviated by hydrotherapy. Lower back pain, chronic pain, sprains and strains all respond well to hydrotherapy.
Of course, not everyone is suitable for water therapy and as such it is a case by case prescription. Patients who fear water, have open wounds or risk of infection, are incontinent or have epilepsy should not participate in hydrotherapy.
If you love to exercise in water, then AJ’s Sports Centre has you covered. We have four heated swimming pools, aqua aerobics and pools available for hydrotherapy. Contact us to find out more or to get your 5-day free trial!