Summer is a great time to think about doing some hydrotherapy or aquatic therapy. These are often used to treat people who have arthritis, have had surgery, joint injuries, or those who are overweight. Combined with the warmer weather, hydrotherapy can allow you to achieve a greater range of motion and movement. It is commonly used as a modality to improve fitness and as a transition into land based exercises.
There are many benefits to using hydrotherapy as a form of rehabilitation or exercise. Water has many properties that can be used to our advantage to help reduce pain, swelling and assist recovery from surgery or episodes of pain.
Firstly, the increased temperature of water in the hydrotherapy pool increases circulation, and decreases muscle spasms. The water can act as a pain relief mechanism. Secondly, the effect of the pressure of water against the body and its tissues can reduce swelling and promote circulation around the body. This is especially helpful for those who have had joint replacement surgery, as often there can be significant swelling. Joint swelling is something that needs to be reduced, since it will place pressure on pain receptors, thus causing you pain. Thirdly, there is the effect of buoyancy in water, which can reduce weight bearing, especially if knees and ankles are painful. Our buoyancy in water can decrease the stress on joints, allowing more movement than is achievable on land. Water also allows people who are overweight or obese to move more, thus increasing their physical activity and calories expended. Fourthly, aquatic therapy can be used to increase muscular strength, since we can use the resistive forces from water to perform strength training.
We can use tools and objects to increase the strength of the resistance such as noodles, kickboards, hydrotherapy dumb bells, or hand paddles. Due to the resistance exerted from the water on the body, it causes a slower motion, allowing more time to control a movement and thus perform the movement correctly. This principle allows you to practice in the water before transitioning to training on land.
As you can see, there are many benefits to aquatic therapy and the goals can be extremely varied. These include: increasing strength, fitness, range and movement of a joint, power or balance. Swimming and aquatic therapy help maintain your fitness levels, if you are injured or if your chosen sport is currently off-season. Optimum offers hydrotherapy services, so do not hesitate to ask your Exercise Physiologist if you are interested in hydrotherapy or aquatic activities.