Aquatic therapy is a therapeutic procedure that seeks to improve bodily function through exercises performed in the water. Its goal is to rehabilitate a patient with chronic illness or after an injury without applying stress on the joints which is common to exercises done outside the pool or water.
Aquatic therapy can offer unique physiological as well as physical benefits to patients. They can enjoy the freedom of movement in the water since buoyancy decreases the stress and weights on the injured joints.
There are three important properties of the water which makes aquatic therapy effective. These are buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure and water resistance. Buoyancy is the upward push which water exerts on any object submerged in water and it helps decrease the effect of gravity as the patient performs exercises in the water. Hydrostatic pressure can produce a force perpendicular to the body and improves the proprioception of the patient. Water resistance can be attributed to water’s higher viscosity which makes the targeted muscles work harder in water than in land. Aquatic therapy allows the patient to work on multiple muscles groups at the same time due to the water resistance.
There are a number of benefits that can be attributed to aquatic therapy:
• The resistance of the water in aquatic therapy helps in controlled conditioning and increases cardiovascular function
• Water buoyancy helps to reduce the stressful effect of gravity on the injured joints
• Water resistance assists in muscle strengthening and improves muscle strength and tone
• The support of the water helps in increasing flexibility and range of motion as it allows the patient to stretch effectively
• Aquatic therapy can increase the patient’s balance and coordination
• The supportive effect of the water is helpful in decreasing pain
• Edema is decreased since the water’s hydrostatic pressure is effective in decreasing swelling
• Aquatic therapy can help improve posture and trunk stability
• It promotes relaxation
• It can help in weight control by improving metabolism rate
• The hydrostatic pressure of the water increases venous flow of the blood as it returns to the heart thus increasing circulation
• The hydrostatic pressure of the water also offers respiratory benefits as it offers resistance to the ribcage as the patients respires.
• The increase of blood flow to the kidneys has a diuretic effect and improves kidney function
Other noteworthy benefits of aquatic therapy are psychosocial.
It can increase the ability of the patient to concentrate, enhance self-confidence is enhanced and provides a calming effect. It is a great option for patients whose rehabilitative needs might not be addressed effectively by land-based exercises.