The Health Benefits of Aquatherapy
Our typical notions of therapy involve working on movements at a gym or rehabilitation center.
But therapy can take place anywhere, not just on land. In recent years aquatherapy has become increasingly popular as a source of healing. People of all ages enjoy it because of the freedom of movement and slow progression to more strenuous activities that it allows.
For patients who are recovering from injury or surgery, have conditions like osteoporosis or fibromyalgia or are unable to do weight bearing exercise, aquatherapy is a great option. It allows you to use the water as resistance to rebuild your strength. In the water, your body can move without gravity, which can be very beneficial to increase strength and range of motion when there is a limiting injury.
Water decreases stress on your joints and spine and relaxes your muscles. Aquatherapy often is the first type of exercise an athlete or someone else who is injured can tolerate. With the supervision of a physical therapist or certified water aerobics instructor, you can walk, run or jump in the water. In some cases, we may use aqua joggers or buoyancy vests for people who have not learned to swim yet or get tired quickly. For people who want or can tolerate a more vigorous workout, water wings or a flotation belt will create more resistance.
I often suggest pool work, whether it be classic swimming or treading water, for cardiovascular training in patients who can’t do significant weight bearing exercise. Aquatherapy is great for heart health because it requires more energy to move through water. Your heart muscles therefore have to work harder to perform each movement, which improves cardiovascular fitness. At Orlando Health, we have an aqua treadmill that allows patients to walk or run, leading to significant weight loss, improved heart health and more muscle tone. All exercises are done under the supervision of a trained professional.
And aside from the strength-building and therapeutic aspects of water exercise, aquatherapy sometimes allows us to teach people to swim, which is a critical life skill.
If you have chronic pain, arthritis, back pain or are recovering after surgery, aquatherapy could be a good fit for you. All you need is a swimsuit, water shoes to protect your feet and a water bottle to stay hydrated. This therapy isn’t recommended for people with incontinence, open wounds or ulcers, seizure disorders or a chlorine allergy. Therapy typically lasts 30 to 45 minutes and can be tailored to your specific needs. If you’re interested in aquatherapy, talk to your doctor about whether it is right for you.