What is Hydrotherapy and Can it benefit me?
Hydrotherapy is physical therapy that takes place in a hydrotherapy pool heated to 36 degrees under the supervision of a trained healthcare professional. Hydrotherapy is also known as water therapy, aquatic rehabilitation, aqua therapy, pool therapy, therapeutic aquatic exercise or aquatic therapy.
Common goals for hydrotherapy programs include:
- Improving flexibility.
- Improving balance and coordination.
- Building muscle strength and endurance.
- Enhancing aerobic capacity.
- Assisting with gait and locomotion.
- Reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
- Reducing oedema.
- Providing sensory input.
Hydrotherapy is different from aquatic exercise or aquatic fitness because it is a physical therapy and rehabilitation speciality that requires the involvement of a trained professional. Hydrotherapy encompasses a broad set of approaches and techniques, including aquatic exercise, physical therapy, and other movement-based therapy in water (hydrokinesiotherapy). Treatment can be passive, or active, involving self-generated body positions, movement, or exercise.
Water’s natural properties create an ideal therapeutic environment...
- Warm water provides a relaxing and soothing environment for reduce muscle spasm, high tone, aching joints and muscles.
- Water’s natural viscosity or resistance can be used for muscle strengthening and increasing rehabilitation progressions.
- Buoyancy allows for flotation and reduces the effects of gravity on injured or aching joints and muscles.
- Hydrostatic pressure supports and stabilises the individual, allowing people with balance deficits to perform exercises without a fear of falling, decreasing pain and improving cardiovascular return.
- Turbulence and wave propagation let the therapist gently manipulate the client through the desired exercises.
- The respiratory muscles are forced to work harder in the water, allowing for a natural strengthening that will benefit the individual after a therapy session has ended.
- Individuals can often achieve things in the water that they cannot achieve on dry land, such as unsupported movement, cardiovascular exercise and walking.
Hydrotherapy has many benefits due to the properties of water. These properties can offer a better outcome when muscle power is low, where there is joint stiffness, high tone and reduced muscle length.
The Whole Body Benefits…
Cardiovascular Health: Circulation will be increased through vasodilation of the blood vessels enabling more blood to reach the tissues. The skeletal-muscle pump is a collection of skeletal muscles that aid the heart in the circulation of blood. It is especially important in increasing venous return to the heart but may also play a role in arterial blood flow. In addition, on entering a warm hydrotherapy pool heart rate and blood pressure will be increased, therefore increasing an otherwise affected functioning circulation system.
Hydrostatic Pressure: Applied by water assists the lymphatic system taking away waste materials and toxins. By increasing the circulation and reducing fluid collection in the lower limbs not only can the lymphatic system function better, but also the risk of a deep vein thrombosis can be reduced. Usually Skeletal muscle provides this pump, but with wheelchair users this is minimal.
Buoyancy: Hydrotherapy enables exercise with the elimination of gravity. This means that muscles that are very weak, too weak to work on land, can be trained in the water more successfully. By alleviating the effect of gravity in the water, this strength can be built up and maintained and progressed.
Heightened Sensory Feedback and awareness: Visual stimulation with the use of sensory lights and brightly coloured toys and objects to play with. Hearing stimulation, listening to music, reacting to sounds, slapping the water and making bubbles on the water. Tactile stimulation, though water being sprinkled, splashed, swirled. Temperature awareness. Vestibular system stimulation through movement in the water that can be difficult for wheelchair users on dry land.