Men and women of all ages can benefit immensely from working out on a regular basis. However, people suffering from certain medical conditions such as joint pain, polio or who are recovering from some muscular or bone injury may find performing even the simplest exercises quite a challenge. The same holds true for people recovering from bone fracture or who are overweight. In such cases, aquatic therapy can prove to be quite helpful, as it uses the resistance and buoyancy of water to provide required workout to various muscle groups without straining injured or weak joints and muscles.
Aquatic therapy is essentially a form of physical therapy that is performed in the water. It is widely used as a part of the rehabilitation program for patients recovering from chronic illness or severe injury. Moreover, this therapy has proved to be extremely beneficial for people who complain of lower back pain or are recovering from a back injury as the drag provided by water during a water therapy session supports and stabilizes the back as well as strengthens it. Deep water walking and bicycling are some highly recommended water therapy exercises for such people.
However, it is best to consult your doctor before signing up for aquatic therapy. Also, it is extremely important to sign up for hydrotherapy only with a qualified physiotherapist who specializes in creating customized water exercise plans or aquatic rehabilitation programs based on the medical history and specific needs of a client. Furthermore, it is extremely important to begin aquatic therapy with a short-duration conditioning program to build endurance before graduating to a full-blown exercise regimen.
A brief introduction to aquatic therapy
According to the definition provided by the Aquatic Therapy Association of Chartered Physiotherapists, aquatic therapy that is also known as pool therapy, water therapy or hydrotherapy is a physical therapy program. It utilizes the inherent properties of water and is designed by certified physiotherapist for improving the physical and/or psychological function of an individual.
Aquatic therapy involves using water as a medium for exercising to rehabilitate the body that may be weak due to a health problem or injury. Since water reduces the body weight by nearly 90%, the patient is made to exercise while standing in shoulder deep water so that there is minimal musculoskeletal stress of the physical activity on the body.
Many physiotherapists specializing in aquatic therapy use warm water for the rehabilitation program for their patients as it helps in reducing the risk of spasm and even relaxes the muscles to a certain extent. This makes the patient feel more comfortable while exercising and even aids in his or her mobility. Apart from rehabilitation, the exercise machines used for pool therapy are also used for aerobic and strength training and to boost body flexibility and endurance level.
The resistance offered by water offers a more comprehensive workout to each muscle group and aquatic therapy is a perfect option for an injured athlete to continue training during his or her recovery period. This is because the buoyancy supports weak muscles and reduces strain on frail joints and muscles while offering greater resistance than dry land exercises to strong muscles.
History of aquatic therapy
Many believe that the concept of aquatic therapy is a modern one that has been introduced by present day fitness experts and personal trainers. However, this is far from true, as evidence of the use of water therapy for treating and rejuvenating people has been found in the historical records dating back to the earliest human civilizations.
Ever since the dawn of time, humans have sought relief and relaxation by taking a dip or bath in springs and pools whose waters were believed to have healing properties. In fact, it was a popular spiritual as well as cultural practice in most river valley civilizations such as China, Egypt, India and Mesopotamia to soak in baths and pools for the purpose of health restoration and maintaining overall fitness. Thus, aquatic therapy is essentially a new branch of an old tree.
Popular techniques of aquatic therapy
An aquatic therapy expert uses a mix of various techniques to design an apt rehabilitation or fitness program for a client. Some of these include Ai Chi or deep breathing as per the tenets of Tai Chi in shoulder deep water and pool massage for deep relaxation. Aquatic walking program and Water Pilates techniques work best for core strength training while aquatic therapy with underwater exercising equipment is an ideal option for an all round fitness program.
Benefits of aquatic therapy
The unique properties of water make aquatic therapy a fun and relaxing way to get some physical activity. This is because water reduces the gravitational pull on the body, supports body weight and aids in fluidity of movement. Moreover, the hydrostatic pressure of water helps in decreasing swelling in joints in arthritis patients and in those who suffer from joint sprain due to a torn ligament.
To add to it, the warmth of water helps in muscle relaxation and in dilating vasodilates vessels thus stimulating blood flow to injured areas. Aquatic therapy also induces a feeling of well being in the patient and inspires greater confidence in him or her, thus offering psychological benefits as well. This in turn boosts the self-esteem of the person and paves the way for a better quality of life.
Some other benefits that aquatic therapy offers include improved muscle tone and strength due to water resistance, improved cardiovascular function due to controlled conditioning while exercising in water and increased blood circulation to various parts of the body including the heart due to the hydrostatic pressure. This pressure also works to reduce swelling and pain and provides respiratory benefit as well.
The water buoyancy aids in core stabilization of the body and provides support to spine and other injured or weak muscles thus enabling a person to move more comfortably during a session of aquatic therapy. Some pool therapy experts also supply flotation devices known as noodles to their disabled clients to maintain their buoyancy while they perform various exercises in water.
Apart from being a popular choice of alternative therapy for treatment and prevention of various illnesses, aquatic therapy is also proving to be an effective program for achieving weight loss by increasing the metabolism rate of the body. Furthermore, pool therapy helps in lowering blood pressure and offers relief from edema as well. This therapy also helps in improving kidney function and facilitates better renal clearance.