Physical Therapy has been recognized as a vital component in the successful rehabilitation of a variety of musculoskeletal disorders. However, there may be times when a traditional land based rehabilitation program may prove too challenging for individuals suffering from a diagnosis such as osteoarthritis. Aquatic therapy can prove to be a successful alternative for these individuals.
Several properties of water including buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure and warm temperature can aid in improving joint range of motion, muscle flexibility, strength and recovery of function. Water buoyancy decreases weight bearing through the lower extremities allowing increased tolerance to joint motion and strengthening activities from a standing position.
Standing waist height in a standard pool, individuals typically can offset body weight up to 54%, and at the level of the upper arm 70%; thus allowing increased tolerance to exercises in standing. As tolerance to weight bearing improves exercises can be progressed to more shallow water. In addition to buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure exerted by water submersion can assist in the management of swelling and edema that individuals may experience in response to exercising.
The water temperature of the pool also has its advantages. The warm water therapy pool at St. James Health and Wellness typically ranges between 94° and 96°F. Most patients in our aquatic program feel the warm water provides a more relaxing environment for their joint pains and limited movements. The increased temperature can assist in increasing range of motion, and muscle flexibility. Though certain precautions must be taken in the water, supervised aquatic therapy may be a preferred alternative to traditional land based rehabilitation.