If you’ve had any physical or exercise therapy before, chances are that you have heard mention of Hydrotherapy. Simply put, hydrotherapy describes any activity performed in water to assist with rehabilitation and recovery.

This form of exercise is a very popular treatment for a variety of different neurological and musculoskeletal conditions due to its effectiveness, accessibility, and just being a lot of fun for everyone involved. In this post, we will explore the effect of hydrotherapy on our body, some precautions, and how hydrotherapy can help you!

What is Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy, also known as aquatic therapy, is a common practice of rehabilitation performed in water, usually a heated indoor pool to around 33-36 degrees Celsius. Hydrotherapy pools are usually shallow enough to allow for walking along the entire length, so swimming ability is not necessary.

The aim of hydrotherapy is to relax muscles, improving joint range of motion, muscle strength, and reducing pain within a safe and fun environment. Often times this form of exercise can be performed in a group, enhancing the social aspect of this treatment. Client satisfaction is therefore quite high.

How does Hydrotherapy work?

The reason hydrotherapy works wonders for many is due to the properties of water, which can produce some unique effects that may be even more beneficial than land-based therapy. Of significant note are the effects of buoyance and hydrostatic pressure, which can be utilized to our advantage when in the water.

Buoyancy

Buoyancy is the upwards force experienced in the water acting opposite to the gravitational pull downwards. This is often the most attractive quality of hydrotherapy, as it helps to take a lot of weight off our joints in the knees and in the back, giving a sense of weightlessness. As clients feel more comfortable and mobile in the water, they are able to do exercises and tasks that they wouldn’t be able to on land. The feeling of weightlessness also gives a sense of security for the client, as any loss of balance would not lead to a fall or injury in the water. This allows the client to be bolder in their rehabilitation and try things outside of their comfort zone.

Hydrostatic pressure

Hydrostatic pressure refers to the force of the water pressing up against the surface of your body that is submerged in the water. Fluid pressure is known to exert itself equally on your body at any given depth, meaning that the deeper you go into the water, the more pressure is exerted on you. This can be very helpful in reducing swelling in the body, especially in the legs where fluid build-up tends to occur easily. As your legs will be deepest within the pool, they will by extension receive the greatest benefit from the fluid pressure. Thus, when combined with exercises for the legs, swelling reduction is very effective in the pool.

Temperature

Though not unique to an aquatic environment, the heated hydrotherapy pools provide a very similar physiological effect as heat pack applied to the body. The heated water passively affects any affected joints and will provide pain relief and help with swelling reduction, further complementing any active exercises performed.

These qualities of water combined with therapeutic exercise produce a very effective rehabilitation program which can help with a variety of conditions such as

  • Lower back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Joint replacements and post-operative rehabilitation
  • Sports injuries
  • Neurological conditions.

More than three quarters of previous or current hydrotherapy client report they were very likely to use hydrotherapy services again in the future for rehabilitation or treatment should the need arise, indicating its effectiveness and the client’s enjoyment of the program. 

Reminders and precautions

Hydrotherapy pools are designed to be accessible by all, often including wheelchair ramps and pool hoists. Though hydrotherapy is very safe, exercising in water does come with its own risks. Before commencing hydrotherapy, you should always consult a health professional such as a physiotherapist or your doctor. Some conditions which are not suitable for hydrotherapy include:

  • Contagious diseases
  • Hepatitis
  • Tracheotomy
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Severe epilepsy
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Open wounds

Your health professional will perform a thorough medical history check and determine whether hydrotherapy is suitable for you. Once you have received the OK, a physiotherapist will create a tailored exercise program for you to complete in the pool to achieve the greatest benefit from your hydrotherapy program!

Hydrotherapy is an effective, safe, and fun rehabilitation that can assist with many common conditions such as lower back pain and arthritis. By using the properties of water, your body can receive benefits even greater than can be achieved on land through standard therapy.

What to do now?

If you or someone you know may benefit from hydrotherapy, give us a call at Gen Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.


Written by Tony Wu

Tony graduated from The University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Hons). He has gained practical clinical experience in a wide range of areas including musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, neuro-rehabilitation, aged care, and community.

Tony has a passion for working with the geriatric population, providing client-centred, friendly care and rehabilitation to allow clients to continue living life the way they want to. He has an interest in musculoskeletal rehabilitation and aims to expand his expand his knowledge base in this area.

 

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