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The Beauty and Benefits of Water Therapy

By Matthew Wilson PT, DPT

Aquatic physical therapy can be the solution for you if you have difficulty walking and standing, or are afraid of falls. Reducing the weight on your joints and increasing your activity level through aquatic therapy could be a great opportunity to improve strength and balance without worrying about pain or falling.

Research has shown that aquatic therapy has benefits for those with lymphedema, joint osteoarthritis, joint replacements, generalized weakness, chronic pain, cerebral palsy and fibromyalgia. These wide varieties of diagnoses can all benefit from the multiple therapeutic effects of water such as buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, viscosity and drag forces.

Reducing joint compression

Water buoyancy reduces the effect of gravity on our body by reducing our relative body weight depending on the water depth. While standing approximately at hip depth, we reduce the gravitational force by 25%, while water at chest height will reduce the force by 50%. If you weigh 200lbs and you stand in chest deep water, it will feel as if you only weight 100lbs as you exercise, increasing exercise tolerance and reducing joint compression forces.

Reducing swelling

Due to the natural hydrostatic pressure of water, it will assist with fluid return to the heart to help with the natural lymphatic system and venous system. The pressure of the water can also help with desensitization which helps reduce pain.

Improving balance

Given water’s viscosity and drag forces, aquatic therapy provides a natural support system for the patient to exercise and walk, with a reduced risk of losing balance and falling. Research supports that the resistance of water as you exercise translates to improved balance and decreased fall risk on land, due to improved ability to practice balance strategies and improve strength in a safe environment.

Reducing pain

With the buoyancy of water reducing joint forces, it provides a safe place to improve movements and strength under the direct supervision of a physical therapist to optimize movement patterns, to take stress off painful joints and improve the energy efficiency of activities to improve overall functional mobility on land.

Aquatic physical therapy is a great opportunity to get moving in the right direction in improving overall wellness and quality of life. With one-on-one treatment sessions, a physical therapist will be there to answer any question you may have and provide close direction and supervision of your treatment plan to maximize results and help transition you to an independent program which you can continue and complete at your own leisure.

Matthew Wilson, PT, DPT graduated from the University of Miami with a BS in Exercise Physiology and Sports Medicine. He earned his Doctorate of Physical Therapy at the University of St. Augustine, San Marcos campus. Dr. Wilson is in charge of the Aquatic Physical Therapy program for Avid Physical Therapy and can be reached at matthew.wilson@avidphysicaltherapy.com.

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