If you've ever moved your arms, legs, hands or feet in water, you may already know how aquatic therapy can enhance the quality of physical movement and activity. Aquatic Therapy, sometimes called pool therapy or hydrotherapy, includes various forms of exercise that take place in a warm water pool. The therapy uses the natural properties of water to make movement easier and less painful for people who are recovering from injuries or have chronic conditions like arthritis or partial paralysis. Aquatic therapy can improve strength and functionality, reduce pain and enhance the quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Water has healing properties: buoyancy, resistance, hydrostatic pressure, and relaxation which allow for improved ability to perform activities that cannot be done on land without difficulty. For more information about these, click here. Patients are often shocked by how well they move in the pool, noting dramatic reduction in pain while experiencing gains in range of motion. Many find themselves able to run and jump for the first time in decades, or for the first time following major surgeries for traumatic injuries. Patients who have not stood in years are able to stand and walk in water. This enables patients to work in ways that won’t worsen their symptoms enabling them to reach goals faster.

A more in-depth look at the healing properties of water:

Buoyancy: Simply put, buoyancy is the ability of things, including your body, to float. This reduces the amount of stress or weight that gravity normally adds to your joints. As a result, you can participate in exercise and movement that might not be possible on land because you will encounter less pain while doing it.

Water Resistance: Resistance is the friction created when your body moves through the water. You can get an excellent example of water resistance by merely moving your hand in a sink of water. In a therapy pool, resistance can help you gain strength without the need for weights or bands. When you combine the resistance and buoyancy properties of water you can build muscle with much less stress on your joints.

Hydrostatic Pressure: If you’ve ever lowered your head and body below the surface in a swimming pool or natural body of water there’s a good chance you’ve felt increased pressure in your eardrums. It’s the result of the pressure that’s exerted by a fluid on whatever is immersed in it. In a therapy pool, hydrostatic pressure can help reduce the swelling in soft tissue and joints that often accompanies injuries, arthritis, or other musculoskeletal disorders.

Relaxation: The warm water in a therapy pool can help relax muscles, a benefit that can be especially comforting to people with back pain and muscle spasms. The warmth and pressure of the water also helps to increase blood flow to injured areas.

We recommend you discuss with your physician first to ensure aquatic therapy is right for you and your condition. Your physician may enter a referral for Physical Therapy with specific request for Aquatic Therapy or you may call one of our offices directly to schedule. Your first visit will be with a Physical Therapist for an evaluation on land to create your specific plan of care. If aquatic therapy is advised, follow-up visits will be scheduled for the pool.
Your first visit in the pool may take up to 1 hour and follow-up visits will range from 30-60 minutes in length. We recommend you arrive 10-15 minutes early to provide time to change so that you are in the pool at the start of your appointment. An aquatic therapist will work with you to create an individualized program to help you heal. They may be in the pool with you or coaching from the side, whichever fits your particular need.
You should bring a swimsuit or T-shirt and pants, a towel, and non-slip shoes. You will be provided with an area to change and store your personal belongings.

We recommend you discuss your condition(s) with your physician or therapist to ensure aquatic therapy is safe for you. The most common contraindications to aquatic therapy include:

  • Uncontrolled cardiac and/or kidney disease
  • Fever
  • Infection
  • Open wounds
  • Bowel/Bladder incontinence

Don’t worry. This is a common concern and many of our patients cannot swim and/or have had traumatic experiences in water yet are quite successful with aquatic therapy. One our aquatic therapists will get in the water with you to ensure your safety and comfort. You will never be forced to do anything out of your comfort zone.