Aquatic Therapy Helps Reduce Pain – FitPT

Aquatic Therapy Helps Reduce Pain

Posted on January 24 2017

Working at rec centers allows me to see, on a daily basis, the wide spectrum of people who are united in their desire for health and fitness. Folks come from all walks and stages of life, ready to leverage tools that will help them improve their mobility and strength.

For many folks, the heated therapy pools provide respite from pain and limitations by allowing free movement in a near zero-gravity environment. While it may seem like magic, there’s actually a lot of science behind aquatic therapy. Before I get into the science, let me share a story that touches my heart every time I think about it…

At each facility, there’s a tight-knit group of seniors who gather for morning exercise and support while they move around in the warmth of the therapy pool. I remember one man in particular, who would enter the facility with a cane. His head was often down as if defeated by his aging and arthritic body. I began to notice that each morning, he’d park his cane and shuffle painfully over to the stairs of the therapy pool. With each step taken into the water, his mood would lift and his mobility would improve. By the time he was chest-deep, he looked about 20 years younger, seemed more confident and even happy to be alive. His time in the therapy pool allowed him to move freely while he left his limitations (and cane) by the side of the pool.

Of all the benefits of this man’s morning water routine, the most touching was seeing his change in attitude. Folks with physical limitations find themselves caught in a prison of pain, isolation, depression, and stress. Patients with these issues often report feeling helpless and unable to change their situation. Aquatic therapy is a fabulous tool that is proven to break the chronic pain cycle and improve quality of life – both in and out of the pool.

Aquatic therapy is a specific form of physical therapy. Research shows that water is the best environment to achieve optimal function, regardless of the injury. Warm water improves range of motion and flexibility. Warm water also has massaging aspects which allow muscles to relax. This muscle relaxation has been linked to a reduction in pain perception for many patients. Even folks who are unskilled at swimming can greatly benefit from aquatic therapy. (It’s safe. I promise!)

The Science Behind Aquatic Therapy

Water creates a near zero gravity setting. This means that a 200 pound person would only weigh 100 pounds in waist-deep water. When the depth is increased to the shoulder level, that same person would weigh only 20 pounds. That’s only 10% of their actual weight!

The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy Include:

    • Warm water promotes muscle relaxation and increases overall blood circulation.
    • Water provides resistance for strength training.
    • Being submerged allows the entire exterior portion of the body to be touched by water. This process stimulates the nerves and helps improve body awareness, balance, and stability.
    • When submerged in water, patients benefit from the reduction of gravitational forces making it possible to train and strengthen without causing further damage to healing process.
    • Buoyancy in warm water results in decreased pain perception and improved quality of life.
    • Exercises that are impossible on land, become realistic and enjoyable when done in a near zero-gravity environment.

    There’s Water Everywhere!

    Fit Physical Therapy clinics are located at recreation centers offering therapy pools on their campus. Swimming is not a prerequisite. Our physical therapists lead patients in safe movements that can be performed while standing in the water. If assistance is needed, patients may hold onto the side of the pool or even use a flotation device. Aquatic therapy helps improve patient confidence with each skill mastered during therapy. This confidence will improve life both in and out of the pool.

    Aquatic Rehabilitation is Often Prescribed Specifically For:

    • Low back pain
    • Joint pain from sports or daily repetitive activities
    • Orthopedic or neurological injuries
    • Post-surgical rehabilitation

    To find out how aquatic therapy can benefit your recovery, contact our office today: 303-409-2133.

    PT Colorado

    Yours for maximum mobility,
    Dr. Patti Hutt, Arvada and Lakewood Clinics


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